SAN FRANCISCO – A Table Bluff Rancheria cigarette shop owner has won a reversal from an appeals court regarding an Unfair Competition Law (UCL) claim in a case over cigarette sales filed by the state.
The Court of Appeal of the State of California First Appellate District, Division Four ruled on Sept. 25 to reverse in part a Humboldt County Superior Court ruling that said Ardith Huber's business violated the Unfair Competition Law.
"We reverse the order granting summary adjudication to the People on the third cause of action for violation of the UCL. We also reverse the order denying summary adjudication to Huber on the third cause of action for violation of the UCL. We thus vacate the permanent injunction in part, to the extent it relies on and is designed to enjoin violation of the UCL. In all other respects we affirm, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion," Judge Jon Streeter wrote.
Huber, who is a member of the Wiyot Band of Indians, owns Huber Enterprises, which sells cigarettes at retail and wholesale.
The state of California and Attorney General Xavier Becerra's office brought a complaint against Huber's business claiming that it was in violation of the Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code. Namely, the plaintiffs alleged that her business violated three statutes under the law "applicable to cigarette sales and marketing, the Tax Stamp Act, the Directory Act and the Fire Safety Act," the ruling states.
Under the Directory Act, "the attorney general 'maintains a published list of all cigarette manufacturers who have annually certified their compliance with the requirements of the (master settlement agreement) MSA or the alternative escrow funding requirements," the suit states.
Under the Fire Safety Act, "all cigarettes sold in this state must, among other things, be packaged in a specified manner and certified with the state fire marshal as compliant with these safety standards," the ruling states.
"Compliance with this remittance obligation is administered under the Tax Stamp Act, which requires all cigarette packages sold in California to have tax stamps affixed to them," according to the ruling.
The ruling states Huber has sold "exclusively Native American brands, which she describes as 'cigarettes manufactured by Indians on Indian lands, . . . shipped and sold through Indian and tribally owned distributors to Indian and tribally owned retail smokeshops located on Indian lands'" since 2007.
The attorney general's office in March 2011 filed action against Huber after sending two cease-and-desist letters charging Huber with "violating various provisions of state law governing distribution and sale of cigarettes," the ruling states.
According to the filing, Huber's business allegedly sold cigarettes in packages without an affixed tax stamp and failed to collect and remit excise taxes; sold cigarettes purchased from manufacturers not listed by the attorney general on the statewide tobacco directory; and sold cigarettes in packaging that does not meet required safety standards, in violation of the Fire Safety Act.
Huber argued that "California has limited civil jurisdiction over cases arising on Indian reservations," according to the ruling.