I've been swamped at work, so posts around here have been few and far between. But there haven't been many class-related decisions to write about either, so maybe you didn't miss much. Today, however, when the legal profession is repenting, I at least have some time to write. In Degelmann v. Advanced Medical Optics (9th Cir. Sept. 28, 2011), the Ninth Circuit examined UCL standing and medical device preemption. In Degelmann, the plaintiffs sought to represent a putative class of purchasers of contact lens solution. Their suit alleged that defendant violated California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) and False Advertising Law (“FAL”) by marketing Complete MoisturePlus (“MoisturePlus”) as a product that cleans and disinfects lenses. The district court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment, ruling that plaintiffs lacked standing.
First, the Court examined the plaintiffs' standing under the UCL:
Here, as in Kwikset, the plaintiffs allege that they paid more for a product due to reliance on false advertising. The district court in this case was likely correct that Degelmann and Lin would have bought other contact lens solution had they not purchased MoisturePlus. However, as elucidated by the Kwikset court’s discussion, it does not necessarily follow that they did not suffer economic harm. Degelmann and Lin presented evidence that they were deceived into purchasing a product that did not disinfect as well as it represented. Had the product been labeled accurately, they would not have been willing to pay as much for it as they did, or would have refused to purchase the product altogether. The district court’s reasoning—that class members would have bought other contact lens solution, and therefore suffered no economic harm— conceived of injury in fact too narrowly.
Slip op., at 18565. In that same discussion, the Court distinguished Birdsong v. Apple, Inc.:
The inquiry into injury in fact in this case, where the class makes claims under both the UCL’s fraud prong and the FAL, is not controlled by Birdsong v. Apple, Inc., 590 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 2009). In that case, purchasers of iPod headphones pursued a claim under the UCL’s “unfair” and “unlawful” prongs, asserting that listening to loud music on the headphones could result in hearing loss. They did not allege economic harm from having purchased headphones in reliance on false advertising, but rather claimed that the inherent risk of the headphones reduced the value of their purchase and deprived plaintiffs of the benefit of their bargain. Id. at 961. The court in that case found that the claim of economic harm was not sufficient to plead injury in fact in part because, in distinct contrast to the MoisturePlus labeling at issue in this case, Apple had not represented that the headphones were safe at high volume. Rather, “Apple provided a warning against listening to music at loud volumes.” Id. Because there is allegedly false labeling and advertising at issue in this case, Birdsong does not aid our disposition here.
Slip op., at 18565-66. So far, so good for the plaintiffs. But then the Court discusses preemption. The Court found that the lens solution at issue satisfied FDA requirements for labelling contact lens solution. The Court concluded that, having met the standard, the UCL and FAL would necessarily have to impose additional obligations in order for the plaintiffs to state any claim, which would then invoke preemption, immediately precluding the claim:
In order for the class to recover in this lawsuit, a court would have to hold that California’s UCL and FAL required something different than what the FDA required in order for AMO to label MoisturePlus a disinfectant. Those California laws would have to require that AMO test for Acanthamoeba, and show that MoisturePlus kills it in sufficient quantities. That is, California law would have a requirement that is additional to the federal requirements.
Slip op., at 18569. And that, as they say, was that. You have standing, but you lose. At least it's good to have some guidance from the Ninth Circuit on the application of Kwikset to federal standing arguments.