Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Alamo Recycling Co. v. Anheuser Busch Inbev Worldwide (Cal. Ct. App. - Aug. 24, 2015)

There's slim pickings from the California appellate courts today.  The Ninth Circuit published nothing today (and the California Court of Appeal published nothing yesterday).  And as of lunchtime, the Court of Appeal has only published two things today -- one of which merely amends a prior opinion to add a single-sentence footnote, and the other of which involves the proper way for California to tax intangible private possessory interests that exist in a publicly owned airplane hanger at the Santa Monica Municipal Airport.  And, honestly, it's unclear which one of these opinions I'd be more hard-pressed to say something interesting about.

So I thought I'd go back a tiny bit to last month and briefly mention a lawsuit that shows a lot of cojones by a tiny little recycling company:

"Plaintiffs Alamo Recycling, LLC (Alamo) and Chino Valley Recycling, LLC (Chino) operate “recycling center[s]” where beverage containers sold in California may be redeemed for their “California Redemption Value.” In this action, plaintiffs sued defendant Anheuser Busch Inbev Worldwide, Inc. and other companies that sell or distribute beverages containers in California . . . . The gravamen of the complaint is that defendants knowingly and “falsely” label beverage containers sold both inside and outside California with “CA CRV,” “California Redemption Value,” or similar labels when, in fact, under California law, only containers purchased inside California may be redeemed in California. The complaint alleges that containers sold outside California are transported into California and redeemed at recycling centers like those operated by plaintiffs, and this exposes plaintiffs to state regulatory fines and penalties, risks rendering the “California Beverage Recycling Fund” insolvent, and thereby risks the economic viability of plaintiffs’ recycling businesses."

It's a creative argument.  But, not surprisingly, one that doesn't work.  For a variety of different reasons, one of which can be summarized in three words:

Dormant.  Commerce.  Clause.

Sorry about that.  Yeah, it's a hassle that some people drive in cans from Arizona to redeem them in California.  But there are ways to solve, or at least try to solve, that problem short of the nationwide relabeling that plaintiffs seek.

Sorry about that.  Nice try, though.