Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

On appeal, plaintiff juice producer contended that the United States District Court for the Central District of California erred in its holdings that the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), 21 U.S.C.S. § 301 et seq., barred its Lanham Act claim, that it lacked statutory standing to pursue its state law claims, and that the FDCA expressly preempted its state law claims against the name and labeling of defendant competitor’s product.

 

Overview

A commercial litigation attorney Los Angeles manages large and small legal issues in lawsuits that any business may need to negotiate as a regular course of business. The competitor announced a new product that used “Pomegranate Blueberry” prominently in its name despite containing only 0.3% pomegranate juice and 0.2% blueberry juice. The FDCA and its regulations barred pursuit of both the name and labeling aspects of the producer’s Lanham Act claim. The naming component of the producer’s claim was barred because Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations authorized the name the competitor had chosen. Taken together, those regulations reflected that (1) the competitor could give its product a name that referred to juices that provide the characterizing flavor, and (2) those juices need not be predominant by volume if the competitor stated that those juices were not predominant. Thus, the producer’s challenge to the name of its competitor’s product would create a conflict with FDA regulations and would require the court to undermine the FDA’s apparent determination that so naming the product was not misleading. The same was true for the labeling component of the producer’s claim. For a court to act when the FDA has not—despite regulating extensively in this area—would risk undercutting the FDA’s expert judgments and authority.

 

Outcome

The grant of summary judgment was affirmed to the extent it barred the Lanham Act claim with respect to the product’s name and labeling. The grant of summary judgment was vacated to the extent it ruled that the producer lacked statutory standing on its California Unfair Competition Law and California False Advertising Law claims; the case was remanded so that the district court could rule on the state claims in accordance with the opinion.

 

Procedural Posture

Plaintiff judgment creditor appealed a judgment and orders from the Superior Court of Sacramento County (California), which ruled that a judgment confirming an arbitration award against a trust was unenforceable, denied the judgment creditor’s motion to add defendant trustee to the judgment, and awarded post-arbitration attorney fees to third-party claimant successor trustees as prevailing parties.

 

Overview

The judgment creditor entered into a contract to purchase an apartment building owned by the trustees of a family trust. When the sale was not completed, the judgment creditor brought suit against the trustees for specific performance and damages. The matter went to arbitration, resulting in an arbitration award against the trust, which was confirmed. The judgment creditor did not seek to correct either the arbitration award or the judgment to name the trustees as judgment debtors. The court held that the trust was not a proper judgment debtor under Code Civ. Proc., §§ 680.280, 680.250, because it was not a person. Because a trust was not an entity separate from its trustees, it could not sue or be sued, and it could not hold title to property. As indicated in Prob. Code, § 18004, a judgment against trust assets had to be made against the trustees in their representative capacity. Having accepted and confirmed the arbitration award against the trust, without attempting to have either the arbitrator or the trial court correct it under Code Civ. Proc., §§ 1284, 1286.6, to name the trustees as the proper parties, the judgment creditor was bound by the terms of the arbitration award.

 

Outcome

The court reversed the denial of the motion to add the trustee to the judgment and remanded with directions to the trial court to vacate its order on that motion and to conduct further proceedings. In all other respects, the court affirmed.

 




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