California Federal Court Denies Certification of Consumer Class Action Against ConAgra Foods
On June 13, 2014, a California federal judge denied a motion to certify a class of California consumers in a class action against ConAgra Foods for alleged deceptive and misleading advertising of the company’s Hunt’s tomato products, PAM cooking sprays, and Swiss Miss hot cocoas.
Plaintiffs Levi Jones, Christin Sturges, and Edd Ozard filed the class action on behalf of themselves and all Californians who had purchased Hunt’s, PAM, and Swiss Miss products, alleging that the company mislabeled its products as 100% natural, when they contained chemicals, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients and made unlawful claims respecting the products’ antioxidant properties. By filing the lawsuit as a class action, the plaintiffs sought to represent a larger group, or “class”; in this case, California consumers who had also purchased the products. In order to proceed as a class action in federal court, the plaintiffs were required to file a motion for class certification, demonstrating to the court, among other things, that the class meets various prerequisites, including commonality of the claims of the various class members (e.g., that they have all been subjected to the same unlawful practices by the defendant), that the named class members’ claims are typical of those of the class members they seek to represent, and that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit will adequately protect the interests of the class.
The court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification with respect to each of the three products at issue for several reasons. The reasons cited by the court included difficulties determining who the class members are and how many of which type of product each class member purchased due to numerous label changes for the various products and lack of consumer receipts. The court also determined that individual issues would predominate over common ones related to whether the challenged “100% natural” and antioxidant claims in the various product advertisements and labels were material to consumers and/or whether they relied upon the alleged misrepresentations in deciding to purchase the products. The plaintiffs may decide to appeal the decision, but have not indicated that they will do so at this time.
If you or someone you know has purchased a product based upon false or misleading advertisements, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.