As consumers become increasingly health-conscious, we see more lawsuits against food manufacturers who label their products as “natural” when, in fact, they may have highly processed ingredients. Such is the case in a lawsuit currently facing the Northern District of California. Two consumers, Lauren Ries and Serena Algozer have filed a class action on behalf of all similarly situated consumers against AriZona iced tea. They argue that the “natural” label on the beverages is deceptive, because they allegedly contain high fructose corn syrup and citric acid.
Ms. Ries claims she purchased an “All Natural Green Tea” at a gas station because she was thirsty and was looking for an option which would be healthier than soda. Ms. Algozer says she purchased several AriZona iced teas over the years, but neither plaintiff remembers the prices, nor do they have receipts.
Ms. Ries and Ms. Algozer filed for a class action under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2). This Rule is a little more lenient than Rule 23(b)(3), under which the commonality hurdle would have been much higher. As it is, potential class members only need to satisfy “minimal commonality” in order to qualify.
While this works in favor of the plaintiffs towards attaining class certification, it prevents them from collecting any monetary damages. The lawsuit was filed seeking an injunction against using the word “natural” on the product’s packaging, as well as restitution for their purchases of the mislabeled iced tea. However, the same “minimal commonality” requirements which allow this class to gain certification also prevent the class from claiming any monetary damages. Therefore, Judge Seeborg of the Northern District of California has partially certified the class for an injunction, but refused to certify the class to seek restitution for their purchases.
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