Consumer Fraud Claims Against Tetley USA Dismissed
A federal court in California has dismissed a putative statewide class action alleging that Tetley USA misleads consumers by making “antioxidant, nutrient content, and health claims” for certain of its tea products; the statutory warranty claims were dismissed with prejudice, and the remaining claims were dismissed with leave to amend the complaint to comply with the plausibility pleading standard. De Keczer v. Tetley USA, Inc., No. 12-2409 (N.D. Cal., order entered August 16, 2013).
According to the court, while the plaintiff acknowledged that the products
at issue were consumables under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act,
he “appears to argue that the product labels constitute express warranties
and that the products in question therefore fall under the provisions of
section 1793.35, which provides for the enforcement of express warranties on
consumables. The Court rejects this argument because food labels, like the
ones at issue, do not constitute express warranties against a product defect.
Labels on product packaging and websites are ‘product descriptions rather
than promises that [a food product] is defect-free or guarantees of specific
performance levels.’” The court dismissed the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
claim for the same reason.
As to whether the pleadings were sufficient, the court observed that the
complaint used the term “Misbranded Food Products” “no less than eighty
times.” Because the term was defined as “including but not limited to” five
of the company’s products, none of which precisely mirrored the products
that the plaintiff alleged purchasing, the court found that “the Amended
Complaint does not provide a clear and unambiguous account of the
allegedly fraudulent, deceptive, misrepresentative, or otherwise unlawful
statements.” The plaintiff was given 15 days to file an amended pleading.