A federal court in California has granted in part the motion for summary judgment filed by Twinings North America in a putative class action alleging that the company misbrands its tea products by stating that they are a “Natural Source of Antioxidants” and “a natural source of protective antioxidants.” Lanovaz v. Twinings N. Am., Inc., No. 12-2646 (N.D. Cal., order entered January 6, 2014). Regarding the plaintiff’s claims that the company’s labels imply protection from disease, the court found the product representations “too general to relate to a ‘health-related condition’” and thus dismissed these claims.

As to causation, the issue was whether the plaintiff admitted in her deposition
that she did not rely on the green tea and Earl Grey tea labels or the
company’s website when making her purchasing decisions. The court refused
to read her deposition transcript as narrowly as the company urged and
found that the label was part of the reason for her initiating and continuing
product purchases.

The court refused to find as a matter of law that the company’s “natural
source” statement is not a nutrient content claim. The court further rejected
the company’s claim that the plaintiff cannot establish an injury sufficient
for Article III standing. While the court acknowledged that the plaintiff “may
have significant difficulty proving damages, that is not an issue for standing.
Paying more than she otherwise would have because of unfair competition is
enough to establish standing.”


Issue 509

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.

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