Category Archives Litigation

A federal court in New York has dismissed with prejudice a putative class action alleging that Pepsi-Cola Co. falsely and deceptively used the term "diet" for its Diet Pepsi, leading consumers to believe that the beverage would help them lose weight or assist with "healthy weight management." Manuel v. Pepsi-Cola Co., No. 17-7955 (S.D.N.Y., entered May 17, 2018). Following three federal district court dismissals of nearly identical claims, the court found that "no reasonable consumer would understand a soft drink labeled as 'diet' to be a weight-loss product." "'Diet' immediately precedes 'Pepsi,' and thereby connotes a relative health claim—that Diet Pepsi assists in weight management relative to regular Pepsi," the court held. Although "diet" is used to identify other weight-loss products, "in the context of soft drinks, the term unambiguously signals reduced calorie content relative to the non-diet version of the drink in question." Ruling that a cause of action for false or misleading…

A New York plaintiff alleges Halo Top ice cream is falsely and deceptively labeled because it does not prominently display the term "light" on its labels, purportedly misleading consumers into believing it is regular full-fat ice cream. Berger v. Eden Creamery, LLC, No. 18-2745 (E.D.N.Y., filed May 9, 2018). Among other allegations, the plaintiff asserts that consumers associate the word "halo" with yellow, the color of butter and cream; that Eden Creamery fails to comply with federal laws requiring the identity statement "light ice cream" to be displayed prominently on the front label; and that the location where the phrase is displayed is "in an area of the container prone to ice or condensed water obstructing it." In addition, the complaint alleges that Eden Creamery's statements that Halo Top is "All Natural" and contains "No Artificial Sweeteners" are false and misleading because the products contain a synthetic form of the sugar…

Ferrara Candy Co. has agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a putative class action alleging its candy boxes contained an unnecessary amount of slack fill. Iglesias v. Ferrara Candy Co., No. 17-849 (N.D. Cal., motion filed May 10, 2018). Under the agreement, Ferrara will "modify its fill level quality control procedures and target fill levels to at least 75% for theater box Products, and at least 50% for bag-in-a-box Products." In addition, the company will pay $2.5 million into a common fund; class members may submit claims for an unlimited number of purchases, but recovery for claims without proof of purchase will be capped at $7.50 per member. The named plaintiff will receive an incentive award of $5,000, and attorney's fees will be capped at 30 percent of the common fund, or about $522,000.

Christopher Lischewski, president and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in California and charged with one count of felony price-fixing for his alleged role in a scheme to fix the price of canned and packaged seafood sold in the United States. U.S. v. Lischewski, No. 18-0203 (N.D. Cal., filed May 16, 2018). The felony charge alleges that Lischewski and co-conspirators engaged in "an unreasonable restraint of interstate commerce" in violation of the Sherman Act; the maximum penalties include up to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of $1 million. Lischewski's indictment follows guilty pleas on similar charges from Bumble Bee and its former senior vice president.

Burger King Corp. faces a civil-rights lawsuit after an employee at a Boston location accused a man of trying to pay for food with an allegedly counterfeit $10 bill, refused to return the bill and called the police when the man would not leave the restaurant. Ellis v. Burger King Corp., No. 1884-CV-01489 (Mass. Super. Ct., Suffolk Cty., filed May 14, 2018). The plaintiff, who is homeless and black, alleges that when he was arraigned, he was charged with possession of counterfeit notes and a probation violation and was subsequently held without bail from November 12, 2015, until February 19, 2016. He was reportedly released when the U.S. Secret Service notified the prosecutor that the $10 bill was authentic and not counterfeit. Burger King allegedly did not return the $10 bill to the man. Claiming conversion, defamation, negligence and violation of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, the plaintiff seeks attorney's fees and $950,000…

A California appeals court has affirmed a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit asserting that Sutter Home Winery Inc.'s wine should feature a warning about arsenic content pursuant to the state's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Prop. 65). Charles v. Sutter Home Winery Inc., No. B275295 (Cal. App. Ct., 2nd Dist., entered May 9, 2018). While Sutter Home's wines feature the "safe harbor" alcohol warning pertaining to cancer and birth-defect risks, the plaintiffs argued that the labels should also reference risks associated with consuming inorganic arsenic. Failing to disclose the inorganic arsenic level, the plaintiffs asserted, amounted to a Prop. 65 violation. "Plaintiffs contend the safe harbor warning for alcoholic beverages is incomplete because it does not alert consumers to the presence of inorganic arsenic, and by this omission, the warning misleads consumers into believing their exposure is limited to a single listed chemical, alcohol," the…

The Florida attorney general has filed a lawsuit alleging Miami-based Icebox Cafe violated the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by advertising its food and beverage items as locally sourced and "farm-to-table" while the ingredients were purchased from traditional commercial vendors. Office of the Attorney Gen. v. Icebox Cafe LC, No. __ (Fla. Cir. Ct., Miami-Dade Cty., filed May 4, 2018). The state alleges that Icebox Cafe "represented that it purchased products from specific Florida farms and suppliers when such was not the case." According to the complaint, Icebox Cafe's invoices indicate that most of its ingredients were purchased from commercial distributors while its advertising stated that its food was made from products purchased from a local farm and a local seafood distributor. The cafe also allegedly represented that its menu items contained wild salmon and same-day-caught fish, but its invoices did not show purchases of those items. Claiming deceptive representation,…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging Trader Joe's Co. falsely advertises its Sour Gummies by failing to disclose that the product contains d-l-malic acid. Wong v. Trader Joe's Co., No. 18-0869 (S.D. Cal., removed to federal court May 4, 2018). The plaintiff asserts that under California law, "any artificial flavor must be identified on both the front-of-package label and the product ingredient list. Defendants fail to do either." According to the complaint, "Trader Joe's maintains a pervasive national marketing campaign guaranteeing that all its house-brand products are only naturally flavored," including the statement "when you see our name on a label, you can be assured that the product contains: YES quality ingredients NO artificial flavors." Alleging unfair competition, false advertising and negligent misrepresentation, the plaintiff seeks class certification, damages, corrective advertising and attorney's fees. In addition, Trader Joe's has filed a notice of opposition to an application for the…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging New England Coffee Company (NECC) mislabels its Hazelnut Crème Coffee by failing to include a front-label disclosure that the product contains natural and artificial flavors. Dumont v. Reily Foods Co., No. 18-10907 (D. Mass., filed May 7, 2018). "Rather, buried on the back side of the label in the far-left corner in tiny print was the only indication that the Product did not contain its characterizing ingredient [hazelnut]," the complaint asserts. The plaintiff argues that the front-label disclosure is a legal requirement and "a material term on which a reasonable consumer would rely." The complaint points to examples of competitors' hazelnut coffees that contain front-of-package disclosures as well as similar disclosures on other varieties of coffee sold by NECC. The complaint asserts that after the plaintiff sent a notification-and-demand letter to NECC in 2017, the company added the disclosure to 15 of the…

Binny's Beverage Depot faces a putative class action alleging the company violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by collecting and sharing employee biometric information without informed consent. Burger v. Gold Standard Enters., Inc., No. 2018CH05904 (Ill. Ch. Ct., Cook Cty., filed May 7, 2018). The plaintiff alleges that Binny's established a fingerprint-based time-clock program and shared the collected data with third-party payroll processors and data-storage vendors without providing its employees "informed written consent, and without informing them through a publicly available written policy of how it was going to store and dispose of this irreplaceable information," and "failed to maintain lawful data retention practices which reduce the risk of theft or other misappropriation of its workers' biometrics by unauthorized third parties." The risk was compounded, the complaint asserts, because the biometric data was linked to Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates and "potentially other relevant financial information." Claiming violations of…

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