4th Cir. affirms dismissal where P didn’t allege specific lost consumers or quantify lost sales

Wall & Associates, Inc. v. Better Business Bureau of
Central Virginia, Inc., — Fed.Appx. —-, 2017 WL 1437215, No. 16-1819 (4th
Cir. Apr. 24, 2017)
The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of Wall’s complaint
for false advertising based on statements by the BBB.  Lexmark
requires a plaintiff to show not only false or misleading advertising but also
that such statements caused it actual damages. 
Wall didn’t properly allege causation. 
The false advertising alleged in the complaint was that the BBB falsely
advertised and promoted a system for assigning letter grade ratings to
businesses as “national, uniform, unbiased, and objective” when in reality the
system was implemented based on “subjective, biased, and personal criteria.” Wall
alleged that it was damaged by receiving received a letter grade rating
resulting from “subjective, biased, and arbitrary decisions” when consumers
believed that it had been subjected to a review process that is “national,
uniform, unbiased, and objective” in nature.
Wall’s complaint, however, does not
identify a single consumer who withheld or cancelled business with it or
pointed to a particular quantum of diverted sales or loss of goodwill and
reputation resulting directly from reliance on any false or misleading
representations by Defendants of the letter grade rating system as objective
and unbiased. Given the absence of such fact allegations, Wall did not
adequately allege the necessary proximate cause between its alleged injury and
Defendants’ allegedly violative conduct.

Does that mean that every plaintiff should identify consumers
or allege quantified losses, or will more general allegations suffice when the
harm is more direct/the advertising claim being challenged is more central to
the decision?

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