Federal Court Denies Class Certification to Orange Juice Plaintiffs
A New Jersey federal court has denied class certification to a group of consumers alleging that Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice was mislabeled and misbranded because the maker adds natural flavoring to the product in violation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s standard of identity for pasteurized orange juice. In re Tropicana Orange Juice Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., No. 11-7382 (D.N.J., entered January 22, 2018).
The court ruled that the plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment, express warranty and New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act claims required individualized proof; thus, individual issues predominated over those of the class. In addition, the plaintiffs were unable to demonstrate that the proposed class was ascertainable—in particular, the court found, it was unclear whether any of the “dozens, if not hundreds of retailers” could confirm with certainty whether they possessed consumer data for the class period. If a consumer purchased the juice from a retailer that did not maintain relevant data, the consumer “would be excluded from the Class because there will be no way to verify his or her claim; and yet, that class member will still be bound by any judgment on the merits emanating from this Court. That defies one of the principal rationales of ascertainability—’identifying persons bound by the final judgment’—and simply cannot be permitted.”