Category Archives State Courts

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that several ingredients in LaCroix sparkling water, which is marketed as “always 100% natural,” are “non-natural flavorings and synthetic compounds.” Rice v. Nat’l Beverage Corp., No. 2018-CH-12302 (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook Cty., filed October 1, 2018). The plaintiff alleges that the ingredients are synthetic and therefore cause consumers harm. “For instance, limonene causes kidney toxicity and tumors, linalool is used as a cockroach insecticide; and linalool propionate is used to treat cancer,” the complaint asserts. The complaint garnered significant media coverage, including in CBS News, Los Angeles Times and USA Today. A nutritional scientist reportedly told CBS News, “These compounds are found in nature, mostly in fruit such as oranges, limes, strawberries, pineapples, bananas….so we consume these compounds every day if we eat any kind of fruit.” In addition, Snopes noted, “The chemicals identified in the lawsuit [] are both safe…

The Center for Food Safety has filed a lawsuit alleging Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods Inc. violates California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop. 65) by failing to warn consumers that its children’s food products contain levels of acrylamide in excess of 0.2 micrograms per day. Ctr. for Food Safety v. Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods, Inc., No. RG18915114 (Cal. Super. Ct., Alameda Cty., filed August 1, 2018). The advocacy group alleges that four of the company’s frozen vegetable products contain levels of acrylamide outside of safe-harbor limits and that none of the products carry the “clear and reasonable warning” required by Prop. 65. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties and attorney’s fees.

A couple has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services alleging that “burdensome” regulations bar them from selling their canned pickled vegetables at farmers’ markets. The plaintiffs own a farm near Austin and sell vegetables locally, but when they sought to expand into sales of pickled beets, okra and carrots, they learned that Texas bars sales of all pickled vegetables except cucumbers. Under state law, bakers can sell goods at markets, fairs and festivals without becoming licensed food manufacturers. The Health Services Department has limited sales to pickled cucumbers, specifically excluding other canned pickled vegetables. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), who sponsored an amendment to the law to allow the sale of pickles, reportedly told the Texas Tribune that he did not know the department’s rules construed "pickles" to mean only pickled cucumbers. "That pickle definition is kind of flying in the spirit of the legislation,”…

The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld a municipal ordinance charging a $0.20 "waste reduction fee" for paper grocery bags and prohibiting disposable plastic bags, ruling the charge is part of a regulatory program of waste management and not a tax. Colo. Union of Taxpayers Found. v. City of Aspen, No. 16SC377 (Colo., entered May 21, 2018). After two members of the plaintiff advocacy group paid the bag charge in Aspen, the group sued the city and members of the city council alleging the charge was a tax subject to voter approval under the state's Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The trial court and the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in the city’s favor. The court noted that grocers are permitted to retain a portion of the $0.20 charge to provide information to customers, train staff and improve collection and administration, while the remainder is submitted to the city on a form separate…

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…

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…

A vintner has filed a lawsuit alleging Colorado's “wine development fee,” charged to wholesalers, is an unconstitutional excise tax. Vineland Corp. v. Colorado, No. 18-30199 (Colo. D.C., filed April 24, 2018). Since 1990, Colorado has imposed a 10-year renewable excise tax of one cent per liter on all vinous liquors sold in the state. In 1992, the state passed the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), which mandated advance voter approval for extension of expiring taxes; in 1997, the legislature amended the 1990 act, renaming the excise tax a “wine development fee.” The plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment that the fee is “an impermissible attempt to extend an expiring tax without voter approval, and that this attempt to rename an excise tax surcharge [] without such voter approval is a violation of TABOR.” Further, the plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, attorney’s fees and a refund of all fees paid in the past four fiscal…

The American Heart Association, Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition and Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition have filed a lawsuit to appeal and amend the ballot title and summary of an initiative that would ban Washington's local governments from levying new taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). In re Ballot Title & Summary for Initiative No. 1634, No. 18-2-01924-34 (Wash. Super. Ct., filed April 9, 2018). The petition alleges that after Seattle's SSB tax took effect January 1, 2018, beverage industry groups filed the initiative in an attempt to stop other jurisdictions from adopting similar taxes. The petition also alleges that the ballot title and summary are “misleading and prejudicial” because they purport to ban new taxes on "groceries," a measure that the advocacy groups predict would be “disfavored” by voters.

In-N-Out Burger has reportedly requested a restraining order against a YouTube video creator who allegedly posed as the company's CEO at two of its restaurants. The man allegedly argued with employees, demanded that kitchen employees prepare him food for a “taste test,” and took food out of a customer's hand, threw it on the floor and stepped on it. In a statement, a company executive reportedly said, “We have recently seen an increase of visitors to our stores, who are not customers but instead are intentionally disruptive and who then try to promote themselves through social media.” The lawsuit also petitions the Los Angeles Superior Court to impose a $1,000 fine for each violation of the restraining order and seeks damages of more than $25,000 for fraud, trespass, nuisance and criminal violations.

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