Alston & Bird Lawyers Score Big Win For McDonald’s

Alston & Bird earned a victory Wednesday for McDonald’s against the Center for Science in the Public Interest (“CSPI”), a nutrition advocacy group, after convincing a California judge to dismiss a putative class action in its entirety and without leave to amend. Plaintiff, who was represented by CSPI, alleged that McDonald’s violated California’s consumer protection laws by using toys to market Happy Meals to children. According to the lawsuit, McDonald’s use of toys allowed it to “get[] into the parents’ wallets via the kids’ minds,” which was allegedly unfair because children are not capable of understanding the persuasive intent of advertising.

In dismissing Plaintiff’s claims based on alleged deception, the court noted that Plaintiff’s attempt to rely on the “inherent deception” of her children by McDonald’s “is not recognizable as deception under California law” because the claim had nothing to do with “untruth, a half truth, or an omission by the defendant. It has to do with the cognitive deficiencies of the listeners. That’s not deception under California law.”

The Court also dismissed Plaintiff’s claims based on the “unfair” prong of California’s consumer protection laws due to a lack of standing, because Plaintiff received the benefit of her bargain. As the Court stated, “the parents get exactly what they think they’re getting. Nothing less. As a matter of fact, the claim is they know exactly what they’re getting and they don’t want it.” Ultimately, in dismissing all of Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice, the Court recognized that Plaintiff’s lawsuit was an inappropriate effort to use California consumer protection law to “get in the middle of raising children, of disciplining children, [and] of teaching children what the parent thinks is right or wrong….”