Tag Archives New York

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has given final approval to a $7.5 million settlement in a lawsuit alleging that Godiva Chocolatier Inc.'s packaging misled consumers into believing all of its chocolate was produced in Belgium. Hesse v. Godiva Chocolatier Inc., No. 19-0972 (S.D.N.Y., order entered April 20, 2022). The approval dismisses concerns raised by the attorneys general of six states arguing that elements of the settlement were too favorable to Godiva. Their concerns included a $25 cap on claims with proof of purchase as well as a lack of notice about the settlement on Godiva's website, but the court found the cap to be reasonable and noted that Godiva sent 8.2 million initial emails and 7.7 million reminder emails to customers to provide notice of the settlement.

A consumer has filed a projected class action alleging Mondelez International Inc.'s Green & Black's chocolate packaging misleads as to the product's cacao content. Lee v. Mondelez Int'l Inc., No. 22-1127 (S.D.N.Y., filed February 9, 2022). The labels indicate that the products are 60%, 70% or 85% cacao, but "the back labels uniformly reveal that the principal chocolate ingredient is not cacao but cocoa, which [] is an inferior, highly processed derivative of the cacao bean that has been stripped of the nutritional qualities that make dark chocolate appealing to its consumers." The complaint explains that the ingredient list—"organic bittersweet chocolate (organic chocolate liquor, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic vanilla extract)—makes no "mention of cacao butter, but only of cocoa butter." Further, the front labeling also states that the product is "made from 'the finest Trinitario cacao beans,'" the plaintiff argues, which allegedly implies that the products "retain…

A consumer has alleged that Mondelez Global LLC misleads consumers by marketing its Oreo Fudge Cremes as "fudge covered" because the topping covering the cookies lacks milkfat. Leonard v. Mondelez Global LLC, No. 21-10102 (S.D.N.Y., filed November 28, 2021). The complaint lists several recipes for fudge to support its argument that fudge requires the presence of milkfat, while Mondelez produces its "fudge" with palm oils and nonfat milk. "Fudge covered cookies made with fudge ingredients such as dairy components, containing milkfat, are not a rare or pricy delicacy that would make a reasonable consumer 'double check' their presence by scouring the packaging," the plaintiff argues. "The front label creates an erroneous impression that essential fudge ingredients are present." The complaint compares the "fudge" ingredients to the "truthful and non-misleading 'Mint' representations, through words and pictures of peppermint leaf," which are accurate because the product contains peppermint oil, the plaintiff explains.…

A New York federal court has dismissed allegations that Aldi Inc. misled consumers about the contents of its vanilla almond milk product. Parham v. Aldi Inc., No. 19-8975 (S.D.N.Y., entered September 21, 2021). The complaint asserted that the almond milk contained a "comparatively high level of vanillin" and "'a trace or de minimus' amount of vanilla," allegedly misleading consumers as to the primary flavoring agent of the product. A magistrate judge provided the court with a recommendation, noting that a "reasonable consumer would understand that the word ‘vanilla’ on the front of the carton describes how the Product tastes, not what it contains, especially in circumstances where the ingredients listed on the Product container do not mention vanilla at all." Further, the magistrate stated, "Five other courts in this district have recently addressed nearly identical arguments regarding other vanilla-flavored products. All five courts rejected claims that the labeling of vanilla-flavored products was…

Shook Partner Cary Silverman has authored a report exploring the rise in class actions filed in New York, which, he explains, "is largely a result of lawsuits targeting businesses that sell food and beverages." Class Action Chaos: The Rise of Consumer Class Action Lawsuits in New York, created in partnership with the New York Civil Justice Institute, details how "the percentage of class action lawsuits targeting products that New Yorkers place in their shopping carts, grab at a grocery store, or buy at a restaurant has gone up." "Lawsuits claiming that businesses mislead consumers in how they labeled, marketed, or advertised food made up about one-third of deceptive practices class actions in 2015. Now, these 'food court' lawsuits account for about 60% of New York’s consumer class actions – exceeding deceptive practices claims against all other products and services combined. Over 100 food class actions were filed in New York…

New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced a probe into whether baby food contains toxic elements such as arsenic and other metals. In a press release, James said, "“Baby food manufacturers have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the safety of their products, and provide peace-of-mind to the parents who rely on their products every day. Through this probe, I am committed to protecting the health and wellness of the next generation.” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit against Beech-Nut Nutrition Co., alleging "that Beech-Nut’s deceptive and misleading advertising violated the District’s consumer protection laws and misled parents that its baby food underwent the most stringent testing and was fully safe for babies when, in fact, the food contained high levels of toxic heavy metals." Racine is quoted as saying, “No company should profit by illegally deceiving parents about products that actually jeopardize the health and…

A plaintiff has filed a putative class action alleging that Whole Foods Market Group Inc. misleads consumers by selling sparkling mineral water in a lemon raspberry flavor without an "appreciable amount" of lemons and raspberries. Kelly v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp. Inc., No. 21-3124 (S.D.N.Y., filed April 11, 2021). The label of the water contains images of lemons and raspberries, the complaint asserts, and consumers "will expect the presence of a non-de minimis amount of lemon and raspberry ingredients, based on the pictures of these fruits." The plaintiff argues that the ingredient list, which shows the contents as "carbonated mineral water, organic natural flavors (raspberry, lemon)," fails to inform consumers the flavoring "mainly consists of flavors from fruits other than lemons and raspberries." "Because lemon oil and raspberry oil or raspberry extract are not separately identified ingredients, it means that any real lemon or raspberry flavoring is at most a de minimis…

Two consumers allege that Ancient Brands' Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein products are marketed as beneficial to health but contain protein that is "largely indigestible to the human body and provides little to no actual benefit to consumers." Bush v. Ancient Brands LLC, No. 21-0390 (N.D.N.Y., filed April 5, 2021). The complaint asserts that Ancient Brands fails to calculate the protein content as a percentage of daily value or as calculated by the Protein Digestibility Amino Acid Corrected Score, allegedly violating state and federal regulations. The plaintiffs detail how protein content is calculated, asserting that the percentage daily value listed on the packaging provides consumers information on the quality of protein and is required on product packaging that contains a nutrient content claim for protein. The plaintiffs allege violations of New York and California consumer-protection statutes as well as fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment and breach of express warranty.

A New York federal court has dismissed a lawsuit against Oregon Chai Inc. for failure to state a claim in litigation centered on whether using the term "vanilla" on packaging is misleading to consumers. Cosgrove v. Oregon Chai Inc., No. 19-10686 (S.D.N.Y., entered February 22, 2021). "In the past two years, counsel for Plaintiffs [] has filed numerous class action complaints across the country, including several in this District, challenging food manufacturers’ use of the term 'vanilla' in their descriptions or advertising," the decision begins. "In nearly all of these cases, the district court ultimately found that the plaintiffs had failed to state a viable claim for relief. This time, Plaintiffs challenge Defendant Oregon Chai, Inc. [], claiming that Defendant’s use of the term 'vanilla' and other statements on the packaging of its chai tea latte powdered mix is misleading to consumers. As set forth in the remainder of this Opinion,…

A New York federal court has dismissed some claims while allowing others to continue in a lawsuit alleging Whole Foods Market Group Inc. misleads consumers by not using graham flour to produce or honey to sweeten its "honey graham crackers." Campbell v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp. Inc., No. 20-1291 (S.D.N.Y., entered February 2, 2021). The court found that the plaintiff adequately pleaded allegations that "the references to 'honey' and 'graham' on the product’s packaging are likely to lead a reasonable consumer to wrongly believe that these graham crackers contain more whole-grain flour than non-whole grain flour, and that honey is their predominant sweetener," so claims under the New York General Business Obligation Law can continue. The court dismissed a claim of negligent misrepresentation, finding the plaintiff "failed to allege the existence of a special relationship giving rise to a duty to speak on the part of the Defendant." The plaintiff's…

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