In Nelson v. Pearson Ford Co., ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (Jul. 15, 2010), the Court of Appeal (Fourth Appellate District, Division One) addressed a number of interesting UCL-related issues. The most interesting one is the class representative's standing in an "unlawful" prong case. Slip op. at 32-34.
The first 30+ pages of the opinion focus on whether the defendant auto dealer violated various provisions of the Automobile Sales Finance Act (Civ. Code §2981 et seq.) ("ASFA"). After concluding that it had, the Court of Appeal turned to the UCL and CLRA claims. The first question was Prop. 64 standing:
Pearson Ford does not challenge the conclusion that its violations of the ASFA support Nelson's UCL claims; rather its appeal is limited to the trial court's finding that Nelson had standing to pursue claims under the UCL. Pearson Ford focuses its argument on whether Nelson suffered injury "as a result of" its unfair competition under the UCL. (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17204.) Relying on Troyk [v. Farmers Group, Inc., 171 Cal.App.4th 1305 (2009)], Pearson Ford contends that Nelson needed to prove he would not have bought the car if he had known that the second contract: (1) charged him pre-consummation interest; (2) misstated the APR; and (3) failed to separately itemize the $250 insurance premium. We disagree.
The failure of Pearson Ford to comply with the ASFA caused Nelson to suffer an injury and lose money as to both classes because he paid pre-consummation interest (the backdating class), and paid sales tax and financing charges on the insurance premium (the insurance class). Unlike Troyk, these illegal charges violated the UCL and Pearson Ford improperly collected additional funds from Nelson. UCL causation exists because Nelson would not have paid pre-consummation interest, or sales tax and financing charges on the insurance premium had Pearson Ford complied with the ASFA. Because Nelson had standing to pursue claims under the UCL, we reject Pearson Ford's argument that the judgment in favor of both classes should be vacated to the extent it grants relief under the UCL.
Slip op. at 34 (emphasis added).
This holding is consistent with the Tobacco II footnote explaining that "the concept of reliance" will have "no application" in many UCL cases. In re Tobacco II Cases, 46 Cal.4th 298, 325 n.17 (2009). In Nelson, the defendant violated the law, which meant that additional charges and incorrect interest calculations were incorporated into the plaintiff's sales contract. This occurred wholly apart from any "reliance" by the plaintiff. By contrast, "the lack of disclosure of proper charges, not illegal charges, violated the UCL in Troyk." Nelson, slip op. at 33.
The Nelson opinion goes on to discuss UCL restitution (slip op. at 35-38) (worth reading); UCL rescission (slip op. at 39-40) (which it holds is not an available remedy); unclaimed residual funds under Code of Civil Procedure section 384 (slip op. at 40-42) (see this blog post for more on that topic); the CLRA (slip op. at 45-47); and 998 offers in the class action context (slip op. at 48-52).