SeaWorld Faces Consumer Suit Over False Advertising Claims

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SeaWorld Faces Consumer Suit Over False Advertising Claims

By Lindsay Rittenhouse

A federal judge in California will allow consumers suing SeaWorld Entertainment to move forward with their claims that the company allegedly lied about the health and treatment of its orca whales to entice them to buy tickets and merchandise.

Judge Jeffrey S. White of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that SeaWorld cannot dismiss the claims brought by Juliette Morizur and other park guests because they were properly filed under the state's Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law, according to court papers.

“In reliance on SeaWorld's deceptive advertising regarding its treatment and the health of captive orcas, plaintiffs purchased admission tickets to and souvenirs at SeaWorld's San Diego amusement park,” the consumers argued in their court filing, stating they “suffered monetary harm.”

“The Court has invited SeaWorld to raise these arguments again by way of summary judgment or in opposition to class certification, and we intend to do just that,” SeaWorld spokesman Larry Iser said in an email to TheStreet.

The consumer claims were filed in response to the 2013 documentary Blackfish – which revolves around Tilikum, who died in captivity last month. The movie tells the story of the male orca, who was taken from the ocean at a young age, and due to the stress and limited life he experienced in the tanks of SeaWorld, he became aggressive, resulting in the deaths of two of his trainers.

The consumers' third amended complaint will now move forward as a result of Tuesday's ruling. Previous attempts by the consumers to bring claims against SeaWorld were thrown out by Judge White.

Some of the prior claims argued that the consumers, relying on SeaWorld's false advertisements, bought Shamu plush dolls which they would not have done otherwise.

“SeaWorld is in more hot water…audiences aren't buying SeaWorld's tickets or lies and are still waiting for the company to retire these animals to seaside sanctuaries,” said Tracy Reiman, PETA executive VP.

SeaWorld ended its orca breeding and shut down its theatrical shows at its San Diego park on Jan. 8 in favor of a natural orca encounter. The killer whale theatrical shows at its San Antonio and Orlando parks will close by 2019.

Read full article and learn more about False Advertising Claims here.

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