In the wake of lawsuits filed by the manufacturer of a pomegranate-juice based product line, consumers have now begun seeking damages against the same defendants for alleged deception and fraud in the sale of pomegranate juice purportedly containing “little or no pomegranate juice.” Burcham v. Welch Foods, Inc., No. 09-05946 (C.D. Cal., filed August 14, 2009). Additional information about the lawsuits filed by POM Wonderful LLC against Welch Foods, Inc. and Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. appears in issues 290 and 313 of this Update.

According to plaintiff Maryam Burcham, seeking damages for herself and a class of “All persons residing in California who purchased Welch’s ‘White Grape Pomegranate Juice,”’ the defendant’s product “purports to combine white grape and pomegranate into a single juice product. However, the truth is that the main ingredients in Defendant’s White Grape Pomegranate Juice are actually cheap white grape and apple juice, instead of pomegranate juice, which is one of nature’s most potent antioxidants.”

Discussing the purported health benefits of pomegranate juice, the plaintiff details how the defendant allegedly misleads consumers with its advertising and labeling by focusing “on the pomegranate in the product, while downplaying the cheaper juices it primarily contains.” The complaint refers to the POM Wonderful litigation, noting that a court has ruled that its state law claims are not preempted by federal law. According to the plaintiff, the defendant also makes misleading and deceptive claims about the juice on its website.

The complaint alleges unlawful, unfair and deceptive business practices and false and misleading advertising in violation of California’s Business & Professions Code. The plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to halt defendant’s advertising, marketing and packaging of its product “as containing a significant quantity of pomegranate juice”; to require an immediate public information campaign; and to correct “any erroneous
impression consumers may have derived concerning the nature, characteristics, or qualities of its juice product.” The plaintiff also seeks restitution, interest, attorney’s fees, and costs, and asks for “[d]istribution of any moneys recovered on behalf of members of the Class via fluid recovery or cy pres recovery where necessary and as applicable, to prevent Defendant from retaining the benefits of their [sic] wrongful conduct.”

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