Tag Archives Illinois

Two consumers have filed a putative class action alleging that Tropicana misleads consumers by implying that its products are natural despite containing malic acid. Willard v. Tropicana Mfg. Co., No. 20-1501 (N.D. Ill., filed February 28, 2020). The complaint argues that Tropicana "tricks consumers" into buying products by "omitting the legally required disclosures" about artificial flavoring because the juice products list malic acid—which the plaintiff asserts is the synthetic flavoring form, dl-malic acid—as an ingredient. Tropicana "intended to give reasonable consumers like the Plaintiff the impression that the Products are pure, natural, and not artificially flavored, by packaging, labeling, and advertising the Products" with depictions of fresh fruit and names such as "Farmstand Apple," the plaintiffs assert. For alleged violations of Illinois and California consumer-protection statutes, they seek class certification, injunctions, damages and attorney's fees.

A lawsuit challenging the ingredients in LaCroix sparkling water has been dismissed with prejudice by the plaintiffs. Rice v. Nat'l Beverage Corp., No. 18-7151 (N.D. Ill., E. Div., entered February 18, 2020). National Beverage Corp. reportedly shared a letter with the media about the voluntary dismissal, stating that a laboratory cited in the complaint confirmed that it had not, as alleged, determined that the ingredients in LaCroix were not natural. "That laboratory has since confirmed in writing and separately under oath that its testing could not, and did not, determine whether the ingredients were 'synthetic' and made no finding as to the source of the ingredients it identified." The letter reportedly also asserts that the plaintiff was provided results from a different laboratory, "which confirmed that LaCroix's flavor ingredients are 100% natural and free of any 'synthetic' sources."

The Seventh Circuit has declined to revive a putative class action alleging that Fannie May Confections Brands Inc. misleads consumers as to the amount of chocolates contained in its boxes. Benson v. Fannie May Confections Brands Inc., No. 19-1032 (7th Cir., entered December 9, 2019). The court found that the plaintiffs suffered no "actual damage" as a result of Fannie May's allegedly misleading packaging. The plaintiffs "never said that the chocolates they received were worth less than the $9.99 they paid for them, or that they could have obtained a better price elsewhere," the court held. "That is fatal to their effort to show pecuniary loss. Moreover, their request for damages based on the percentage of nonfunctional slack-fill is quite vague. They do not explain how a percentage refund of the purchase price based on the percentage of nonfunctional slack-fill corresponds to their alleged harm. They thus failed to raise…

An Illinois federal court has dismissed a lawsuit alleging Wendy's International discriminates against disabled customers who cannot independently access 24-hour Wendy's locations during night hours when the stores only accept drive-through orders. Davis v. Wendy's Int'l LLC, No. 19-4003 (N.D. Ill., E. Div., entered December 12, 2019). The court held that the Wendy's policy applied to all pedestrians regardless of their disabled status. "[A]s with any other non-drivers, [the plaintiff] could access the drive-through if she were a passenger in a car sharing service, a taxi, or a friend's car," the court noted. "Therefore, the fact that [the plaintiff] cannot drive because of her visual impairment does not establish that Wendy's drive-through policies are the but-for cause for her inability to obtain food. [] Instead, it is her status as a pedestrian that is the but-for cause of her injury." The court dismissed the plaintiff's claim with prejudice.

An Illinois court has dismissed a lawsuit alleging Kraft Heinz Foods Co. misleads consumers by marketing Capri Sun as free of preservatives despite containing citric acid. Tarzian v. Kraft Heinz Foods Co., No. 18-7148 (N.D. Ill., E. Div., entered October 10, 2019). The court first found that (i) the plaintiffs “failed to allege that the situs of the transactions at issue occurred ‘primarily and substantially’ in Illinois” and dismissed one allegation on behalf of nonresident plaintiffs for lack of standing and (ii) the plaintiffs lacked standing to seek injunctive relief. The court then turned to the argument that Kraft Heinz’ statements about “no artificial preservatives” were false or misleading. “Plaintiffs’ allegations detail the practices commonly used to manufacture citric acid throughout the industry before concluding: ‘Thus, Defendant’s citric acid is artificial.’ That is too great of an inferential leap," the court held. "To satisfy the pleading standards, Plaintiffs need to…

Illinois has passed a law requiring businesses to indicate on food labels whether a product contains sesame. The amended law deems a food misbranded if "it contains sesame, is offered for sale in package form but not for immediate consumption, and the label does not include sesame." The state representative who sponsored the legislation told the NPR affiliate that his daughter is allergic to sesame and has received incorrect answers when inquiring about the ingredient at restaurants. “If they see us do it, the hope is that everyone does it,” he reportedly told WILL. “I hope that the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)] and other states will follow suit." FDA and the U.K. Food Standards Agency have opened investigations into the prevalence of sesame as an allergen in prepared food products, while Canada, the European Union, Australia and Israel have reportedly enacted regulations requiring sesame labeling.

An Illinois federal court has dismissed part of a putative class action alleging that Champion Petfoods USA Inc. sold foods for animals that contained elevated levels of several heavy metals—including arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead—as well as bisphenol A (BPA), pentobarbital, "non-regional and non-fresh ingredients, or unnatural or other ingredients that do not conform to the dog foods' packaging or advertising." Zarinebaf v. Champion Petfoods USA Inc., No. 18-6951 (N.D. Ill., E. Div., entered July 30, 2019). The court found that the plaintiffs were not alleging the dog foods to contain unsafe levels of the materials at issue; rather, the plaintiffs' claims were plausible because they alleged that the marketing led them to believe the products to be "healthy, natural and high-quality" but that a reasonable consumer would not have purchased the products knowing that they contained heavy metals and BPA. The court dismissed claims relying on the presence of…

A plaintiff has alleged that Ferrara Candy Co. misleads consumers by labeling its candies as containing no artificial flavors while including malic acid as an ingredient. Gruber v. Ferrara Candy Co., No. 19-4700 (N.D. Ill., E. Div., filed July 12, 2019). The complaint echoes other putative class actions alleging that the "malic acid" listed as an ingredient is more specifically "dl-malic acid," a synthetic food additive that can add tartness. The plaintiff alleges that he paid money for products—including Nerds, Sprees, Laffy Taffy and Everlasting Gobstoppers—that he would not have purchased if he had known that they contained artificial ingredients; further, "[w]orse than the lost money, the Plaintiff, the Class, and Sub-Class were deprived of their protected interest to choose the foods and ingredients they ingest." For an alleged violation of Illinois consumer-protection law as well as fraud, unjust enrichment and breach of express warranty, the plaintiff seeks class certification,…

An Illinois federal court has dismissed part of a lawsuit alleging that Barilla America Inc. misleads consumers about whether its sauce contains preservatives because it contains citric acid. Kubulius v. Barilla Am Inc., No. 19-6656 (N.D. Ill., E. Div., entered July 2, 2019). The court declined to apply Illinois law, finding that the plaintiff's claim was based "on a single statement he claims to have seen on a single product label during a straightforward retail purchase transacted in New York." Further, the court noted, "apparent from the complaint is that plaintiff's statutory and common law consumer fraud claims cannot feasibly be maintained as a nationwide class action" because the asserted laws in each state are different. The court allowed the plaintiff's New York fraud claims to continue.

The federal government has filed a statement of interest in a lawsuit alleging that Lenny & Larry's Inc. misled consumers as to the amount of protein in its cookies. Cowen v. Lenny & Larry's Inc., No. 17-1530 (N.D. Ill., E. Div., filed February 15, 2019). The statement argues that the settlement is a marketing opportunity for Lenny & Larry's rather than a benefit for the consumer class. "The settlement before the Court has a purported $3.5 million value, but that amount disguises the limited benefits it actually offers to class members. In reality, the settlement's cash component will go almost entirely to class counsel, while the bulk of its non-monetary award will consist of free cookies the defendant plans to send to vendors across the country for distribution to whomever those vendors select," the statement asserts. "Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a less balanced settlement than one where most…

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