Sonner v. Premier Nutrition Corp., 971 F.3d 834 (9th Cir.
In this amended opinion (original
summarized here), the court elaborates on its reasoning that Sonner couldn’t
abandon her damages claim on the eve of trial in this false advertising case
and seek only restitution, because equity requires that legal remedies be
inadequate and she abandoned her legal damages claim:
At bottom, “[t]hat a State may
authorize its courts to give equitable relief unhampered by” the “restriction[
]” that an adequate remedy at law be unavailable “cannot remove th[at] fetter[
] from the federal courts.” Guided by that instruction, we hold that the
traditional principles governing equitable remedies in federal courts,
including the requisite inadequacy of legal remedies, apply when a party
requests restitution under the UCL and CLRA in a diversity action.
Side note: I wonder how federal courts treat the “traditional
principles governing equitable remedies in federal courts” when it comes to
disgorgement in trademark cases. Disgorgement supposedly just became much
easier to get, and if courts continue to believe that trademark goodwill is a
mysterious entity, distinct from all the other parts of a business, then
perhaps they will routinely find damages inadequate. But that’s always been a
slogan rather than a reasoned decision, and plaintiffs pressing disgorgement
demands in marginal cases may lead courts to see that.
Anyway, “Sonner must establish that she lacks an adequate
remedy at law before securing equitable restitution for past harm under the UCL
and CLRA.” But she conceded that she sought the same sum in equitable
restitution as “a full refund of the purchase price”—$32,000,000—as she
requested in damages to compensate her for the same past harm. There was no
reason damages couldn’t be adequate, even if California state courts wouldn’t impose
the same rule.
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