August 3, 2016
A California judge has declined to toss a federal lawsuit against SeaWorld that alleges false advertising about whales and marine life in captivity.
Three previous lawsuits that targeted SeaWorld for false advertising or deceptive marketing were dismissed in December. But now U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in northern California has denied SeaWorld’s attempt to seek dismissal of another lawsuit along the same lines, and is allowing the plaintiffs to refile a more detailed complaint.
In the suit, San Francisco resident Marc Anderson and three other named plaintiffs alleged that they bought tickets to SeaWorld facilities thinking that the company was focused on marine conservation and animal welfare and found out differently later.
SeaWorld (NYSE: SEAS) has declined to comment on pending litigation, and has been fighting the suit in court. Judge White dismissed some narrow portions of the Anderson suit, but allowed for the plaintiffs in the suit to refile the lawsuit, with more detailed allegations.
Anderson alleged that he purchased tickets to SeaWorld San Diego from the company’s website in 2014, and read the company’s statements about orca lifespans and their calves.
According to the suit, Anderson alleges that he later learned SeaWorld’s advertisements were a misrepresentation of the truth regarding captive orca health, and that he would not have purchased tickets had he known that.
The judge wrote in his recent order that “these facts would be sufficient to show economic injury based on the alleged statements regarding life spans and calf separation.”
Another proposed plaintiff in the suit, Juliette Morizur, alleged that “she asked a SeaWorld trainer about collapsed dorsal fins during a visit to SeaWorld and was told that it was normal and common in the wild” and later bought a plush toy based partly on that statement.
SeaWorld has responded to criticism by making many changes in its programming. In March this year, months after the Anderson suit was filed, SeaWorld announced it was ending its captive breeding program of orcas (killer whales).
“SeaWorld has been listening and we’re changing. Society is changing and we’re changing with it. SeaWorld is finding new ways to continue to deliver on our purpose to inspire all our guest to take action to protect wild animals and wild places,” of the statements related to the announcement said.