(CN) - A California appeals court has reinstated a class action accusing General Nutrition Companies of illegally selling over-the-counter nutritional supplements containing anabolic steroids.
Consumers said GNC sold them products containing androstenediol, a controlled substance under state law, without requiring a prescription.
Lead plaintiff Diego Martinez said he never would have bought the products had he known it was illegal to possess them without a prescription.
The trial court refused to certify the class, because the damage to each class member varied with his or her perceived value of the product. Determining each class member's subjective belief would require individual inquiry, the trial court ruled.
But the appeals court found that "damage" under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act meant any damage, not actual damages. Misrepresentation is material if a reasonable person would find it important to know if the product was legal or illegal before buying it, the appeals court ruled.
"GNC appears to argue that the proper analysis is not whether legality is important to a generic reasonable person but rather, whether it is important to bodybuilders, and Martinez failed to establish materiality because he failed to show that the legality of the androstenediol products is important to bodybuilders," Justice Thomas Willhite wrote.
"[T]here is no reason to believe that, as a rule, bodybuilders care less about legality than non-bodybuilders," the ruling states.
The appeals court ruled that class certification was valid even if some class members would have bought the products knowing they were illegal. Justice Willhite reversed the trial court, ruling that the denial of class certification was based on an erroneous legal assumption.
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