A federal court in Illinois has refused to certify a multistate class of consumers who were allegedly deceived under the consumer protection statutes and unjust enrichment laws of eight named states by a company that, at one time, either misrepresented or failed to indicate that its single serving coffee product contained “instant” or “soluble” coffee rather than fresh ground coffee and a filter. McManus v. Sturm Foods, Inc., No. 11-565 (S.D. Ill., order entered August 26, 2013).

According to the court, the class, defined as all consumers in the eight states who purchased the product from September 2010 until the present, included many who had no injury or had not relied on any product representations. Among the putative class members were individuals who (i) knew that the product was instant coffee and bought it anyway because it made no difference to their purchasing decision, (ii) purchased the product after the company changed the label in 2011 to include the word “instant,” or (iii) ordered the product online without seeing the product label. Examining the laws of each state included in the proposed class definition, the court found that the class was fatally overbroad or too indefinite for certification. As to the plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claims, the court similarly found that the proposed class included members who could not have been harmed and also saw “no way to limit class membership without an impermissible plaintiff-by-plaintiff subjective inquiry.”

The court concluded with a Rule 23 analysis and found that the plaintiffs could not show commonality, typicality, predominance, or superiority. The court also found that the plaintiffs could not seek injunctive relief because it was secondary to the damages claim “and thus not properly certified under R.23(b)(2).”

 

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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