Judge dismisses false advertising lawsuits against SeaWorld

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SeaWorld trainer watches the new baby killer whale swim alongside it’s mother Kalia and grandmother Kasatka. (Credit: SeaWorld)

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SAN DIEGO — A federal judge in San Diego threw out a potential nationwide class-action lawsuit that alleged SeaWorld concealed mistreatment of its captive orca whales with a deceptive marketing campaign, court papers obtained Monday show.

The dismissed complaint was made up of three separate lawsuits filed by consumers, some of whom claimed they purchased tickets based on statements SeaWorld had made about the care of its orcas.

On Christmas Eve, U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo threw out all of the plaintiffs’ claims, noting multiple legal flaws in the complaint, including failure to allege why statements regarding “standards of care” for killer whales were false.

“To the contrary, plaintiffs’ entire premise appears to be that no standards of care would be acceptable because killer whales should not be held in captivity at all,” the judge wrote. “Yet, plaintiffs knew that SeaWorld held killer whales in captivity when they purchased their tickets.”

According to SeaWorld, the judge also recognized that the plaintiffs’ claims stretched the California consumer protection laws beyond their limits and would place unintended burdens on any company selling a product or service.

“While this litigation was another in a series of efforts to ultimately phase out zoos and aquariums, SeaWorld and other science-based organizations are part of the solution, not the problem,” SeaWorld said in a statement. “Orcas at SeaWorld are healthy and thriving.”

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