Court Rejects Key Portions of Lawsuit Against Corn Refining Industry
Under California Free Speech Statute, Judge Immediately Dismisses Claim Due to Lack of Evidence; Also Dismisses All Manufacturers
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — “The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is pleased that the court in the Western Sugar case has stricken the sugar industry’s state law claim under the California anti-SLAPP statute, which provides for early dismissals of meritless cases aimed at chilling freedom of expression,” says Audrae Erickson, President of the CRA. The sugar industry alleged that the CRA’s educational campaign to defend the merits of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was deceptive. “To the contrary,” Erickson said, “the educational campaign is science based and supported by a wide variety of medical and scientific experts.”
SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” The court on Friday, October 21, 2011, granted CRA’s anti-SLAPP motion, and rejected the sugar industry’s attempt to stop the CRA’s speech concerning HFCS, finding that it was “protected under the anti-SLAPP statute” and that the sugar industry plaintiffs “have not met their burden to show a probability of prevailing on their unfair business competition claim,” beyond their allegations.
As the prevailing party on its motion, under California’s anti-SLAPP law the CRA is now entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees and costs against the sugar industry members who brought suit.
Because the anti-SLAPP statute applies only to state law claims, the sugar industry’s federal Lanham Act claim was not immediately dismissed against the CRA, at this early stage of the case, where the court was required to accept the allegations in the sugar industry’s complaint. “It is important to note that this does not mean the sugar industry’s allegations are true,” Erickson said, “only that they have alleged enough to get to the next stage of the case on the Lanham Act claim.”
Apart from the CRA, the court granted a motion to dismiss all of the individual companies who manufacture HFCS.
The CRA looks forward to demonstrating that Plaintiffs’ remaining federal claim, like their dismissed state law claim, lacks merit beyond the bare allegations of the complaint. According to Erickson, “The sugar industry is attempting to shut down free speech rather compete in the marketplace.”