Finding that individual issues predominate over common ones in a putative
class action alleging that Chipotle Mexican Grill sold conventionally raised
meats despite advertising its use of “naturally raised” meats, a federal court in
California has denied the plaintiff’s motion for class certification. Hernandez v.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., No. 12-5543 (C.D. Cal., order entered
December 2, 2013). Additional details about the case appear in Issue 451 of
this Update.

According to the court, when and where a class member ate at Chipotle and
which meat she ate can only be handled individually. The court deemed these
issues significant because the allegations are based on the company’s in-store
menu signboards and paper menus and because the dates on which “naturally
raised” meats were unavailable to specific stores varied over the course
of five years. The court also noted that when Chipotle experienced “naturally
raised” meat shortages, it would instruct individual stores to post signs to so
inform customers, typically at the tortilla station. This further raised individual
issues as to whether a sign was posted or a class member saw it.

With few records available to pinpoint specific purchases involving a “very
low price transaction,” the court found the class action mechanism not fair
and efficient. The court concluded, “The claims would require claimants to
list every time they ate at Chipotle, the date—at least month and year, the
specific location—‘San Francisco’ is not going to be good enough, and the
specific item purchased. The Court is confident that very few people will be
able to provide that information. People will either (1) lie, (2) attempt to fill
out the claim form as best they can but be unable to do so accurately, or, most
likely, (3) not bother. Money would be given out basically at random to people
who may or may not actually be entitled to restitution. This is unfair both to
legitimate class members and to Chipotle.”



About The Author

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.