Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Distrust that particular flavor: standing challenge fails

Anderson v. Jamba Juice Co., --- F. Supp. 2d ----, 2012 WL 3642835 (N.D. Cal.)

Anderson filed a putative class action asserting the usual California claims, plus Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act claims, based on Jamba Juice’s allegedly false representations that its smoothie kits were “All Natural.”  Jamba Juice moved to dismiss and the court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. 

Anderson alleged that the kits were prominently labeled “All Natural” in all five flavors, and that this allowed Jamba Juice to charge a price premium, even though the smoothie kits contain “unnaturally processed, synthetic and/or non-natural ingredients: ascorbic acid, steviol glycosides, xanthan gum, and citric acid.”  Anderson bought the Mango and Razzmatazz kits in reliance on the representations.

Warranty: Anderson alleged that “All Natural” was a written warranty that the ingredients in the smoothie kits were free of a particular type of defect (i.e., that they were not synthetic, artificial and/or otherwise non-natural).  The MMWA defines a warranty as “any written affirmation of fact or written promise … which relates to the nature of the material or workmanship and affirms or promises that such material or workmanship is defect free or will meet a specified level of performance over a specified period of time.”  The claim here was based on “defect free.”  The court found that “All Natural” was not a promise of freedom from defect, but rather a product description.

Next, the court turned to Jamba Juice’s argument that Anderson lacked standing for flavors he didn’t buy.  The cases are divided, but the court was more persuaded by Anderson’s argument that he had representative standing as long as his claims were based on the same core factual allegations and causes of action.  Where there’s sufficient similarity between the products, concerns over material differences can be addressed at the class certification stage.  There was sufficient similarity here between purchased and unpurchased products—the same alleged misrepresentation was on all flavors.

1 comment:

Mac said...

What does 'Unnaturally processed' mean in their complaint?

For example, they talk about xanthan gum, which in the USA is mainly made by fermenting whey. Is a fermentation product 'unnatural'? Is yoghurt 'unnatural'?

Fundamentally any Smoothy is 'unnaturally processed' - there's nothing 'natural' about putting perfectly good fruit in a blender!