Tag Archives Illinois

Sara Lee Corp., which makes Ball Park® franks, and Kraft Foods, Inc., which makes Oscar Mayer® hot dogs, have reportedly brought their marketing dispute to a Chicago courtroom where trial recently began on claims each company brought against the other over ad campaigns that sought to distinguish their brands. Stating “let the wiener wars begin,” U.S. District Judge Morton Denlow apparently opened the bench trial on August 15, 2011. Sara Lee takes issue with Kraft claims that its hot dogs beat Sara Lee’s in a national taste test and that its hot dogs are “100 percent pure beef.” According to Sara Lee, the taste test was flawed because the products were not served with condiments or buns, and hot dogs containing filler and chemicals cannot be called 100 percent pure. Kraft defends its testing and asserts that consumers understand that “pure beef” means that the products do not contain other…

Seeking either clarification or dismissal of claims alleging that it has violated state law by republishing the product or service preferences (“Likes”) of children younger than age 18 as accompaniments to paid advertisements without first obtaining parental consent, Facebook, Inc. argues that the claims are insufficiently pleaded, fail to state a claim or are preempted by federal law. Dawes ex rel. E.K.D. v. Facebook, Inc., No. 11-00461 (S.D. Ill., motion filed August 1, 2011). Facebook explains that the plaintiffs are teenagers who shared their Internet “Likes” with their friends and that Facebook may then redisplay the preference to the same friends along with an advertisement for the relevant company’s website. According to Facebook, the plaintiffs have failed to indicate how they have been injured because they failed to allege “that their personal information had any ascertainable ‘value’ or any facts supporting the claimed ‘lessening’ of that value.” Facebook also contends…

Insurance companies with policies covering Phusion Projects, Inc., which makes the caffeinated alcohol beverage Four Loko®, have filed a summary judgment motion in their declaratory judgment action against the company, claiming that a policy exclusion unambiguously frees them from defending or indemnifying the beverage maker. The Netherlands Ins. Co. v. Phusion Projects, Inc., No. 11-1253 (N.D. Ill., filed June 22, 2011). The companies contend that their commercial general liability and commercial umbrella policies have liquor liability exclusions that apply to actions pending in Florida, Illinois and New Jersey alleging that “Four Loko caused a particularly dangerous kind of intoxication” and seeking monetary damages for deaths and injuries. Details about a similar insurance coverage lawsuit involving other insurers appear in Issue 396 of this Update.

Alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition, Vienna Beef Ltd. has sued a descendant of one of its founders and the competing hot dog company he established in 1986. Vienna Beef Ltd. v. Red Hot Chicago, Inc., No. 11-03825 (N.D. Ill., filed June 6, 2011). When Scott Ladany, whose grandfather started Vienna Beef, left that company in 1983, he purportedly signed a severance agreement promising not to share Vienna’s recipes and  acknowledging their status as trade secrets. According to the complaint, Ladany made “few inroads into Vienna’s dominance in the marketplace” for the next 25 years and then launched a marketing campaign on behalf of Red Hot, referring to the family history of making “Chicago’s finest hot dogs for 118 years.” He also allegedly referred to “a tradition that’s been handed down through four generations of our family.” The plaintiff contends, “The only way that he can claim that he has…

A man who claims that his consumption of Ocean Spray’s 100% Cranberry Pomegranate Juice® caused his food poisoning and other related injuries, has filed an individual action against the company, retailers and a testing laboratory in an Illinois state court. Mihalopoulos v. Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., No. 2011L005420 (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook Cty., filed May 25, 2011). The plaintiff alleges that the product was contaminated with a “fungus known as Penicillium Glabrum.” Part of the complaint alleges that a testing laboratory confirmed the presence of the fungus in the product, but failed to preserve the juice sample, which the plaintiff contends will prejudice his ability to prosecute the remainder of his claims. Alleging strict products liability, negligence and spoliation of evidence, the plaintiff seeks damages in excess of $50,000 for his “severe and permanent injury,” medical costs and future economic losses.

Selective Insurance Co. of South Carolina has filed a declaratory judgment action against Phusion Projects, Inc., which makes and sells the caffeinated alcohol beverage Four Loko®, claiming that it owes no duty to defend or indemnify Phusion in a number of pending lawsuits. Selective Ins. Co. of S. Car. v. Phusion Projects Inc., No. 11-03378 (N.D. Ill., filed May 19, 2011). The lawsuits involve claims that the product was responsible for teenagers’ deaths or injury, its promotions violated consumer protection laws, and the product’s packaging infringed trade dress. According to the insurer, (i) its policy was not in effect as to some of the plaintiffs, whose alleged injuries occurred either before the policy took effect or after the insurer cancelled the policy; and (ii) the policy’s terms expressly or unambiguously preclude coverage for certain claims, including those involving intoxication. The insurer seeks a declaration that the policy does not provide coverage for…

According to a news source, the family of a teenager has sued Phusion Projects, which makes the alcohol energy drink Four Loko®, alleging that their son’s disorientation after drinking two of the beverages led to his fatal accident. Rupp v. Phusion Projects, No. __ (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook Cty., filed May 19, 2011). He allegedly consumed the beverage during a concert in 2010, and his parents picked him up after concert staff contacted them claiming the boy “appeared extremely intoxicated.” The family alleges that their son acted “paranoid and disoriented” on the ride home and took off running when they arrived home. He apparently died when he was struck by a car after running onto a busy highway. The family reportedly alleges in the wrongful death lawsuit that the company “was careless and negligent in formulating a caffeinated, alcoholic beverage that desensitizes users to the symptoms of intoxication, and increases…

The Illinois House of Representatives has approved a bill (H.B. 1600) that would prohibit “food facilities” from selling food containing artificial trans fats. Effective January 1, 2013, the law would apply to any “entity that prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption at the retail level,” including public and private school vending machines. Starting January 1, 2016, the bill would broaden to eliminate the use of artificial trans fats from cafeterias operated by state or local governments or by public or private schools. Most prepackaged foods would be exempt. If approved by the Illinois Senate and signed by the governor, the law would make Illinois and California the only states to enact trans fat bans. According to the bill’s sponsor, Representative La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), Illinois has the 10th highest percent of obese and overweight children in the country. “Health problems cost our state so much…

A putative class action has apparently been filed in a federal court in Illinois by six named plaintiffs who allegedly became ill after consuming Salmonella-tainted eggs from Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms in Iowa. The plaintiffs’ attorney has reportedly been given permission to inspect the farms for evidence. According to a news source, the plaintiffs allege that the companies’ negligence is responsible for the outbreak and suggest that more than the known 1,500 individuals sickened by the contaminated eggs could be class members. In a related development, news sources report that Wright County Egg had dozens of positive results for Salmonella from swabs taken on conveyor belts and in other facility areas as early as 2008 and failed to notify local, state or federal officials. Animal safety experts reportedly called such contamination “surprising” and suggested that repeated positives indicate the company was not “getting to the root cause of what the…

A federal court in Illinois has dismissed claims that companies failing to disclose that the fiber in their snack-bar and yogurt products is “non-natural” chicory root-based inulin, which allegedly lacks the same health benefits as “natural” fiber, have violated state consumer fraud laws. Turek v. General Mills, Inc., No. 09-7038 (N.D. Ill., decided September 1, 2010). According to the court, the plaintiff’s claims are expressly preempted by the federal Nutritional Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) because they would impose requirements under state law that are not identical to federal law requirements. The products at issue are labeled with statements about the percent of daily fiber they contain or grams of fiber provided per serving. Discussing the application of preemption provisions in various federal laws, the court also sets out all of the federal regulations pertaining to fiber in foods. The court concludes, “plaintiff wants to change the labeling on defendants’…

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