When Lies Hit the Big Screen: False Ad Suit Sends Shockwaves Through Film Industry

In June 2022, Universal City Studios LLC (“Universal”) faced a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Central District of California, from two individuals who alleged the violation of consumer protection laws in connection with the trailer for the 2019 film “Yesterday.” The Plaintiffs claimed that they were deceived by the trailer for the film into believing that actress Ana De Armas would appear in the film, inducing them into paying to rent the film. They further claimed that they would not have rented the movie if they had known that De Armas was not in the film. Universal, in its motion to dismiss the case, argued that the trailer did not misrepresent anything. Nevertheless, on December 20, 2022 the Court allowed the lawsuit to proceed.

The Court reasoned that movie trailers can make both actual and implied representations to the public, and these implied representations can be deceiving to consumers. The Court also noted that the reasonable consumer standard, which determines what an ordinary consumer may reasonably expect from an advertisement, was applicable to the case. Universal argued that the trailer was a form of “creative expression” and therefore protected by the First Amendment; however the Plaintiffs countered that the trailer constituted “commercial speech,” and that Universal was motivated by profit.

The Court ultimately ruled that the Plaintiffs had provided enough evidence for three claims, including the California False Advertising Law and California Unfair Competition Law claims, to proceed to the next step. This case highlights the importance of accurate advertising, including trailers.

Ehrlich is represented by LeJeune Law, PC.

Universal City Studios LLC is represented by Munger Tolles and Olson, LLP

The case is Woulfe et al v. Universal City Studios LLC et al, case number 2:22-cv-00459-SVW-AGR in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is a boutique entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The firm has extensive experience handling cases involving entertainment law, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.

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