Category Archives Litigation

The Organic Consumers Association and Food & Water Watch Inc. have filed a lawsuit alleging that Pilgrim's Pride Corp. misrepresents the conditions in which it raises its chickens. Food & Water Watch Inc. v. Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (D.C. Super. Ct., filed February 4, 2019). The complaint alleges that "Pilgrim's Pride systematically raises, transports, and slaughters chickens in inhumane factory-farm conditions," including "the routine use of antibiotics," "crowding," "the use of toxic chemicals," "the use of artificially selected fast-growing, breast-heavy chicken breeds," and "the abuse of chickens by Pilgrim's Pride contractors and employees." The organizations focus on Pilgrim's Pride's representations that its chickens are fed "only natural ingredients" and are not fed "growth hormones of any kind" as well as its assertions that the company "strongly supports the humane treatment of animals." The advocacy groups allege that Pilgrim's Pride has violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act and seek…

Consolidated litigation to determine whether Kind LLC misleads consumers by marketing its products as "all natural" and made without genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will continue after a two-year delay. In re Kind LLC "Healthy and All Natural" Litig., No. 15-2645 (S.D.N.Y., entered February 11, 2019). The court previously stayed the litigation in anticipation of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance documents on when the uses of "natural" and "non-GMO" are appropriate on food labeling. "Given that there is no reason to continue the stay on the 'non-GMO' claims and that neither party wishes to litigate the claims in piecemeal fashion, it makes sense to begin discovery," the court held. "Moreover, this Court explained that the case for lifting the 'all natural' stay would be 'substantially stronger' if the FDA failed to provide guidance by August 2018. Six months later, guidance is still awaited. It is time for this multi-district…

A California federal court has sided with In-N-Out Burgers in a lawsuit challenging whether Smashburger's Triple Double hamburger has "double the beef." In-N-Out Burgers v. Smashburger IP Holder LLC, No. 17-1474 (C.D. Cal., entered February 6, 2019). Smashburger's Triple Double, advertised as "double the beef," contains the same amount of beef as Smashburger's classic burger—five ounces—but the beef is split into two patties instead of one. The complaint alleged that Smashburger's "deceptive" advertising was likely to harm In-N-Out if consumers chose Smashburger's products over In-N-Out's based on inaccurate marketing. "[T]he claim that the Triple Double burger contains 'double the beef' as compared to the Classic Smash burger is literally false on its face," the court found. "The phrase 'double the beef in every bite' unambiguously refers to the amount of beef in the burger, rather than the number of layers of beef." The court dismissed Smashburger's argument that the "double…

Following a settlement with California district attorneys making similar allegations, Russell Stover and Ghirardelli Chocolates have been targeted in a New York putative class action alleging the companies' chocolate packages are "predominantly empty" "through the large void spaces which comprise most of the packaging interior around the actual few items contained therein." Faison v. Russell Stover Chocolates LLC, No. 19-0721 (E.D.N.Y., filed February 5, 2019). The complaint asserts that consumers cannot see the chocolates in the opaque packaging, "causing them to believe the chocolate contents filled all, most, or more of the packaging than they actually did." The plaintiff seeks class certification, injunctive relief, damages and attorney's fees for allegations of unjust enrichment, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of warranties and violations of New York's consumer-protection statutes.

An en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that a district court abused its discretion by denying the American Beverage Association and the California Retailers Association a preliminary injunction that would prevent San Francisco’s ordinance regulating advertisements for sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) from taking effect. Am. Beverage Ass’n v. City & Cty. Of San Francisco, No. 16-16072 (9th Cir., entered January 31, 2019). The court found that the amount of space required for the mandatory health disclosure on SSB ads—20 percent—“is not justified and is unduly burdensome when balanced against its likely burden on protected speech.” The Supreme Court “made clear… that a government-compelled disclosure that imposes an undue burden fails for that reason alone,” the Ninth Circuit stated, before noting that the “remaining factors of the preliminary injunction test also favor an injunction. Because Plaintiffs have a colorable First Amendment claim, they have demonstrated that…

Ghirardelli and Russell Stover have agreed to pay $750,000 to settle allegations brought by the district attorneys of several California counties, according to a Yolo County press release. The California counties alleged that the chocolate companies “packaged certain chocolate products in oversized containers which can give consumers the misleading appearance that they are purchasing more product than they are actually receiving.” In addition, Ghirardelli allegedly misrepresented the amount of cocoa in one of its products. “Consumers have the right to expect full value in their purchases and compliance with packaging requirements is an integral part of the process,” the Yolo County district attorney is quoted as saying. “We will continue to aggressively monitor businesses and prosecute those that violate consumer protection laws.”

Two consumers have alleged that National Beverage Corporation misleads buyers of LaCroix sparkling water because it advertises the products as “all natural” and “100% natural” while they contain flavors composed of “between 36% and 98% synthetic ingredients.” Graham v. Nat’l Beverage Corp., No. 19-0873 (S.D.N.Y., filed January 29, 2019). The complaint cites the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia, which uses “compound specific stable isotope analysis [] and gas chromatography isotope ratio mass spectrometry to generate multi-component, multi-element data for the enhanced characterization of organic chemical processes and source validation.” The plaintiffs seek class certification, injunctions, damages and attorney’s fees for alleged violations of New York consumer-protection law, unjust enrichment and breach of warranties.

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Barlean’s Organic Oils misrepresents the health benefits of its coconut oils because “coconut oil is actually inherently unhealthy, and a less healthy option” when compared to “butter and various cooking oils.” Testone v. Barlean’s Organic Oils LLC, No. 19-0169 (S.D. Cal., filed January 24, 2019). The complaint asserts that coconut oil—“which is approximately 90 percent saturated fat”—increases the risk of cardiovascular heart disease and stroke, in contrast with representations on the Barlean’s website that its product is “Nature’s Most Versatile Superfood” that is “cold pressed fresh for your vibrant health.” The plaintiff alleges violations of California’s and New York’s consumer-protection statutes and seeks class certification, a corrective advertising campaign, restitution, damages and attorney’s fees.

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging Mondelez Global LLC misleads consumers by making its Honey Maid graham crackers primarily with white flour rather than graham flour. Kennedy v. Mondelez Global LLC, No. 19-0302 (E.D.N.Y., filed January 15, 2019). The complaint alleges that Honey Maid products are marketed as "graham crackers" while the ingredients panel lists "unbleached enriched flour" first and "graham flour" second. The plaintiff cites Dictionary.com to assert that consumers expect a "graham cracker" to be "a slightly sweet cracker made of whole wheat flour" and that any cracker made with more white than graham flour cannot be called a graham cracker. The plaintiff seeks class certification, injunctive relief, damages and attorney's fees for an alleged violation of New York consumer-protection law, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, unjust enrichment and breach of warranties.

Washington, D.C., brewery Atlas Brew Works has filed a First Amendment lawsuit and motion for preliminary injunction alleging that the federal government's partial shutdown has violated its right to speak because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has stopped issuing label approvals, causing beer production to halt. Atlas Brew Works v. Whitaker, No. 19-0079 (D.D.C., filed January 15, 2019). The complaint asserts that Atlas "sits on 40 barrels of seasonal, perishable beer—an apricot-infused India pale ale known as The Precious One—that it cannot lawfully label for interstate sale in kegs, as scheduled, for lack of a [Certificate of Label Approval (COLA)]." The brewery alleges that its speech—through labels—is essential to its business because it "cannot sell, and no one will purchase, random unidentified liquids." Atlas argues that its First Amendment rights have been violated because "it cannot be denied the right to speak for lack of meeting an…

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