SeaWorld Wins Orca Health Fraud Suit Dismissal

August 4, 2016

SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc. won partial dismissal, for now, of a proposed class suit alleging it profits from deceptive statements about the welfare of captive orcas at its marine animal theme parks ( Anderson v. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc., 2016 BL 248525, N.D. Cal., No. 15-02172, 8/1/16 ).

However, Judge Jeffrey S. White of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Aug. 1 gave the plaintiffs a chance to replead.

Marc Anderson and others alleged SeaWorld’s advertising creates the misleading perception that orcas (killer whales) generally benefit from the park’s rehabilitative programs and educational activities, and that the individual orcas in captivity there are as healthy as their counterparts in the wild.

SeaWorld announced in March that it will end orca breeding programs, and that the orcas currently at SeaWorld will be the last generation in the parks’ care, plaintiffs say. But their inability to rely on the accuracy of these statements presents a continuing injury to them.

The plaintiffs sued under California’s consumer protection laws, alleging they overpaid for admission tickets and souvenir merchandise because of the misleading statements.

The court found some fraud-based claims insufficiently pleaded, and said not all plaintiffs alleged facts that would allow them to bring claims for injunctive relief and restitution.

But the plaintiffs may amend their complaint, the court said.

A similar complaint was dismissed with prejudice by the Southern District of California in May.

Those plaintiffs have appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in Hall v. SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., No. 16-55845.

Covington & Burling represents the Anderson plaintiffs.

Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP and Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP represent SeaWorld.



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