08:28, December 06 367 0 abajournal.com

2017-12-06 08:28:04
SeaWorld sanctions motion claims Covington recruited ‘puppet plaintiffs’ in consumer class action

SeaWorld contends in a sanctions motion that Covington & Burling should pay more than $1.9 million in attorney fees incurred by the park for defense of a “frivolous” class action brought for alleged improper purposes.

The Dec. 1 motion claims Covington lawyers worked with an advocacy group to find “puppet plaintiffs” for the suit claiming consumers were duped into making SeaWorld purchases based on false claims that its orcas are well-treated. The Recorder (sub. req.) covered the development.

In reality, none of the plaintiffs relied on any specific statements by SeaWorld and none had any intent to make future SeaWorld purchases, according to the motion by SeaWorld’s lawyers with Norton Rose Fulbright. As a result, none of the plaintiffs had standing, the motion said.

The motion says the suit was “brought for the improper purposes of harassing SeaWorld, gaining media attention, and gathering information for an anti-SeaWorld campaign.” Confidential information gained in the suit was channeled to an anti-SeaWorld advocacy group, Earth Island Institute, the motion alleged.

“As typically happens when allegations have no factual basis, Plaintiffs could not ‘stick to the script,’ and the entire scaffolding supporting this frivolous case collapsed,” the motion says.

Covington & Burling previously argued that SeaWorld was relying “on selective and misleading excerpts of deposition testimony” to try to avoid resolution of issues in the case.