Tag Archives New Jersey

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…

A New Jersey man has filed a lawsuit against a produce supplier for its role in a Salmonella Kiambu outbreak in 12 states linked to Mexican papayas that has sickened 47 people and reportedly caused one death. Colon v. Grande Produce, No. 17-5458 (D.N.J., filed July 26, 2017). The plaintiff alleges that he fell ill in June 2017 after consuming a papaya imported by Grande Produce and was later diagnosed with Salmonella-induced illness. Claiming strict product liability, negligence and breach of warranties, the plaintiff seeks damages and attorney’s fees. On July 26, Grande Produce announced it had issued a limited recall of Caribeña Maradol papayas distributed between July 10- 19, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning consumers to avoid all Mexican Maradol papayas regardless of the source. An FDA recall notice stated, “The FDA notes that there are…

The attorney general of New Jersey has announced an “unprecedented” $2-­million fine in a settlement with a craft ­beer and spirit wholesaler accused of trade­ practice violations. Div. of Alcoholic Beverage Control v. Hunterdon Brewing Co. LLC, No. L0002 (N.J. Dep't of Law Public Safety, consent order filed May 31, 2017). New Jersey alleged that Hunterdon Brewing sold tap systems at below­-market prices then overcharged those customers by including “miscellaneous draft charges” on invoices. Further, the company allegedly ignored state credit regulations and entered into discriminatory, “unequal financing” terms of sales with its customers. Hunterdon has agreed to pay the fine in four $500,000 installments over the next 12 months; $250,000 of the final payment will be waived if compliance audits show no further violations. “Fair market prices exist for a reason,” said Attorney General Christopher Porrino in a June 12, 2017, press release. “Consumers suffer when these laws and…

A deaf consumer has filed a lawsuit against Taco Bell Corp. and two franchisees alleging the company discriminated against her by refusing to allow her to order from the drive-through window. Cirrincione v. Taco Bell Corp., No. 33-0001 (D.N.J., filed July 13, 2016). At one location, the plaintiff alleges she wrote her order on a piece of paper and handed it to a Taco Bell employee at the drive-through window, and a manager then “berated Plaintiff for utilizing the drive through and for placing her order at the ‘pick-up’ window” because it “interfered with the desired flow of business.” At another location, the plaintiff asserts she again wrote her order and handed it to an employee, then “the note was slipped back through the drive-through window,” the window was shut and the order was not processed, “and no Taco Bell employee communicated with Plaintiff in any way, leaving Plaintiff humiliated,…

Whole Foods and a consumer have reached an agreement in a lawsuit alleging the company misrepresented the prices of its products before the point of purchase. Burgos v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp., No. 15-7357 (D.N.J., stipulation filed January 20, 2016). The plaintiff alleged that some of Whole Foods’ price displays failed to meet the state’s requirements, which she argued amounted to violations of New Jersey’s consumer-protection statute. The stipulation specifies that the individual plaintiff’s claims are dismissed with prejudice, but the plaintiff’s proposed class is not bound to the terms of the agreement.   Issue 591

A New Jersey federal court has dismissed putative class actions against Whole Foods Market Group Inc., Wegmans Food Markets Inc. and Acme Markets Inc. alleging that they misrepresented their bread products as “freshly baked” or “baked in-store” despite actually being frozen, processed or baked elsewhere. Mladenov v. Wegmans Food Mkts. Inc., No. 15-0373 (D.N.J., order entered August 26, 2015); Mladenov v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp. Inc., No. 15-0382 (D.N.J., order entered August 26, 2015); Mao v. Acme Markets Inc., No. 15-0618 (D.N.J., order entered August 26, 2015). Additional information about the three complaints appears in Issue 549 of this Update. The court found holes in each of the plaintiffs’ amended complaints, noting that they lacked “any detail as to what Plaintiffs purchased, the cost of these items, and the supposed value of what they received,” which are necessary to a price-premium claim. “Nowhere in their complaints or opposition do Plaintiffs…

A New Jersey federal court has again denied class certification to a trio of women suing Beam Global Spirits & Wine for allegedly misrepresenting Skinnygirl® Margaritas as using “only natural ingredients” despite containing sodium benzoate. Stewart v. Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Inc., No. 11-5149 (D.N.J., order entered June 8, 2015). Details about the court’s previous examination of certification appear in Issue 529 of this Update. The plaintiffs argued that the class could be ascertained through a three-level screening process designed to limit the number of fraudulent claims. The process would require potential claimants to provide a (i) claim form and receipt for the purchase of the product or (ii) a sworn affidavit with the dates, locations and prices of their Skinnygirl® Margarita purchases as well as a description of the bottle. In the latter case, the screeners would then check the potential claimants’ affidavits for accuracy to determine, for…

A New Jersey federal court has granted Gerber’s motion to compel discovery of medical records in a consumer putative class action alleging that the company misrepresented its probiotic formula as capable of improving infant immune systems. In re Gerber Probiotic Sales Practices Litig., No. 12-835 (D.N.J., order entered April 10, 2015). Gerber requested medical records for the children who ingested the products, but the plaintiffs objected that the “overly broad” request violated their rights of privacy and that the records were subject to physician-patient privilege. The court agreed with Gerber, finding “a legitimate need for medical records as there is no other source that could test the actual effectiveness of the products that claim to produce immune system health. Proof in the form of scientific studies and expert testimony may not be sufficient,” the court said, so “actual facts or the lack thereof may be essential.” Further, the medical records…

Three consumers have filed three separate putative class actions against Whole Foods Inc., Wegmans Food Markets Inc. and Acme Markets Inc. in New Jersey state court alleging that the grocery chains falsely represent their bread and bakery products as freshly made in-store. Mladenov v. Whole Foods, docket number unavailable (Super. Ct. N.J., Camden Cty., filed December 16, 2014); Mladenov v. Wegmans Foods Mkts., Inc., docket number unavailable (Super. Ct. N.J., Camden Cty., filed December 16, 2014); Mao v. Acme Mkts., Inc., docket number unavailable (Super. Ct. N.J., Camden Cty., filed December 16, 2014). The complaints allege violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act based on advertisements indicating that the bread and bakery products sold by the three companies were made in-store daily despite being “frozen, delivered to its stores, and then re-baked or partially baked in store,” according to the complaint against Acme. Each plaintiff seeks class certification, injunctive…

Hellmann’s producer Unilever has filed a notice of voluntary dismissal in a case alleging that Hampton Creek’s plant-based mayonnaise substitute, “Just Mayo,” could not call itself mayo because it contains no eggs as required by U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards for the product. Conopco Inc. v. Hampton Creek Inc., No. 14-6856 (D.N.J., notice filed December 18, 2014). Unilever filed the complaint in October 2014, arguing that Just Mayo is a misleading brand name because the substance behaves differently than real mayonnaise when used in recipes; the plant-based product can apparently separate into parts rather than binding ingredients together. “Unilever has decided to withdraw its lawsuit against Hampton Creek so that Hampton Creek can address its label directly with industry groups and appropriate regulatory authorities,” said Mike Faherty, Vice President for Foods, Unilever North America, in a statement. “We applaud Hampton Creek’s commitment to innovation and its inspired corporate purpose. We…

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