Category Archives 9th Circuit

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…

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…

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 that Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. sold Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops with partially hydrogenated oil (PHO) in 2016, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a rule declaring PHO unsafe for use in food. Beasley v. Tootsie Roll Indus. Inc., No. 18-7724 (N.D. Cal., filed December 26, 2018). The complaint focuses on the harms of PHO consumption, including elevated risks of diabetes, cancer, organ damage and cognitive decline. The plaintiff asserts that she "suffered physical injury when she repeatedly consumed the Tootsie Products, because consuming artificial trans fat in any quantity, including the quantity she actually consumed, inflames and damages vital organs and increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death." For an alleged violation of California consumer-protection law and breach of implied warranty of merchantability, the plaintiff seeks class certification, restitution and attorney's fees.

A California federal court has granted preliminary approval to the proposed settlement of a lawsuit alleging Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. and Canada Dry Mott's Inc. misled consumers into believing that Canada Dry Ginger Ale was "Made from Real Ginger." Fitzhenry-Russell v. Keurig Dr Pepper Inc., No. 17-0564 (N.D. Cal., entered January 10, 2019). Under the settlement agreement, the company will pay $0.40 per product unit to class members, with a maximum of $40 for those with proof of purchase and $5.20 for those without. The plaintiff's attorneys may apply for up to $2.25 million in attorney's fees, and the class representative will receive $5,000.

Following a California settlement, Amazon has reportedly agreed to stop selling foie gras produced from force-fed ducks and geese. The settlement between the company and Los Angeles County stems from a lawsuit alleging that Amazon violated a 2004 California law banning the sale of the products. Under the agreement, Amazon will not sell—or allow its third-party sellers to offer for sale—force-fed foie gras in California for five years. A lawsuit seeking to invalidate the ban awaits a ruling on certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court after the Ninth Circuit found that the statute was not preempted by the Poultry Products Inspection Act.

A California federal court has partially certified a class of consumers that alleges Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. misled them into believing that their products were free of artificial flavoring but contained malic acid. Hilsley v. Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., No. 17-2335 (S.D. Cal., entered November 29, 2018). The court first found that the proposed class met the requirements of typicality, numerosity, commonality and adequacy of the class representative before focusing on the predominance issue for the breach of express warranty and breach of implied warranty allegations. The plaintiff asserted that damages for those allegations could be determined with a survey that apparently identified the price premium that consumers would pay based on the "no artificial flavors" representation. Ocean Spray argued that the "proposed damages model is fatally flawed" because of the use of "diverse comparative products, retailing concepts, juice percentages and an irrelevant specific time period," and the court agreed,…

A California federal court has denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that Sanderson Farms Inc. misleads consumers about the presence of antibiotics in its chickens. Friends of the Earth v. Sanderson Farms Inc., No. 17-3592 (N.D. Cal., entered December 3, 2018). The plaintiffs—several advocacy groups—assert that Sanderson's marketing misleads consumers into believing that its chickens are raised without antibiotics, while Sanderson argues that its labeling, advertisements and website communicate to consumers that the chicken products they purchase do not contain antibiotics. "Sanderson argues its infographic on its '100% Natural' webpage contains only true statements: it shows what ingredients are not added to the chicken and says nothing about antibiotic use or nonuse," the court stated. "Defendant appears to make an expressio unius argument: that because antibiotics are not included in the list of excluded artificial ingredients, a reasonable consumer could not conclude that antibiotics are also excluded. As…

Plaintiffs represented by the same plaintiff's firm have filed lawsuits alleging that companies mislead consumers by labeling their foods as flavored naturally despite containing malic acid. Lepiane v. Utz Quality Foods LLC, No. 18-2659 (S.D. Cal., filed November 20, 2018); Augustine v. Talking Rain Beverage Co., No. 18-2576 (S.D. Cal., filed November 9, 2018). The plaintiffs who filed against Utz Quality Foods allege that the company's Dirty Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips are labeled as containing "no artificial flavors" but list malic acid as an ingredient. "This type of 'malic acid' is not naturally-occurring but is in fact manufactured in petrochemical plants from benzene or butane—components of gasoline and lighter fluid, respectively—through a series of chemical reactions, some of which involve highly toxic chemical precursors and byproducts," the complaint argues. The complaint against Talking Rain Beverage Co. makes identical allegations. Both complaints allege violations of California consumer-protection statutes and seek…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Vivaloe beverages are misleadingly marketed as naturally flavored because they contain malic acid. Anderson v. Outernational Brands Inc., No. 18-2550 (S.D. Cal., filed November 6, 2018). The complaint asserts that malic acid is "an inexpensive synthetic chemical used in processed food products to make the products taste like tangy fresh fruits" that "is not naturally-occurring but is in fact manufactured in petrochemical plants from benzene or butane—components of gasoline and lighter fluid, respectively—through a series of chemical reactions, some of which involve highly toxic chemical precursors and byproducts." The plaintiff admits that malic acid is generally recognized as safe for use as flavorings but argues that the d-malic form of malic acid "has never been extensively studied for its health effects in human beings." The plaintiff alleges violations of California consumer-protection statutes and seeks class certification, damages, attorney's fees and…

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