The American Tort Reform Association has released its annual report on “Judicial Hellholes”—a term it popularized for jurisdictions in which defendants often contend that they can’t get a fair shake. This year’s report identifies California, Louisiana, New York City, West Virginia, Madison & St. Clair Counties (Illinois), and South Florida as the most unfavorable jurisdictions. According to the report, these jurisdictions suffer from (among other things) overly-aggressive plaintiffs’ bars, expansive liability rules, court procedures that advantage plaintiffs, and welcoming attitudes toward forum-shopping out-of-town plaintiffs.

While the report is worth reading in full, here are some of the highlights
Continue Reading Annual Report on “Judicial Hellholes”


Most people are familiar with Fig Newtons, an iconic cookie that has been around for over a century (at least according to its Wikipedia entry).  There are many other popular versions of Newtons—albeit of more recent vintage—such as raspberry and strawberry Newtons.  These fruit Newtons drew the ire of plaintiff Monique Manchouck, who filed a false advertising class action in the Northern District of California—which has become known as the nation’s “Food Court” —against the makers of the cookies.

What was her beef?  According to her complaint, the product packaging states that Newtons are “made with real fruit.”  
Continue Reading “Food Court” Rejects Class Action Alleging That Fruit Newtons Labels Are Misleading

We recently blogged about one of the recent “class standing” decisions holding that a named plaintiff has standing to represent a class on false advertising claims challenging products the named plaintiff never purchased with labels the named plaintiff never saw. According to that decision, so long as the products that were purchased by the named plaintiff were “sufficiently similar” to the products purchased by the putative class, the named plaintiff had the requisite “sufficient ‘personal stake’ in the litigation” for standing purposes. For example, a named plaintiff who purchased only a few varieties of green tea had standing to sue
Continue Reading I May Have “Standing” To Sue For False Advertising Of Products I Didn’t Purchase, But Do I Satisfy The “Typicality” Requirement Of Rule 23?

As we have blogged before, the food and beverage industry is facing a tidal wave of class action litigation alleging false advertising under state consumer protection laws. We monitor hundreds of these cases, which often present a similar standing issue – the class representative has purchased one product, say Ben & Jerry’s All Natural Chunky Monkey Ice Cream, which he says was falsely advertised as “all natural,” but seeks to represent a nationwide class of consumers challenging all varieties of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream marketed as “all natural,” including, for example, Chubby Hubby.

One of the latest decisions
Continue Reading “Sure I Didn’t Buy It, But I’m Suing for False Advertising Anyway!”

The federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”)—along with the implementing regulations promulgated by the FDA—sets out a detailed national standard for much of what appears on food and beverage labeling. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 301, et seq.; 21 C.F.R. §§ 101, et seq.; Pom Wonderful LLC v. Coca-Cola Co., 679 F.3d 1170, 1175 (9th Cir. 2012). This national labeling law expressly preempts states from enacting different requirements for labels, including requirements imposed by courts under the guise of redressing a “misleading” or “fraudulent” label. 21 U.S.C. § 343-1; Turek v. Gen. Mills, Inc.,
Continue Reading Are State-Law Claims for Violating Federal Food Labeling Law Preempted?

The Ninth Circuit’s decision last year in Mazza v. American Honda Motor Co. [666 F.3d 581] (a case I argued) made it more difficult to sustain a nationwide class action under California consumer protection laws. Applying California “governmental interest” choice-of-law principles, the Mazza court held that the jurisdiction having the greatest interest in supplying the rule of decision was the one in which a consumer received misleading communications, made her purchase, and sustained any injury—not the location of the company headquarters from which the communications “emanated.”

In Maniscalco v. Brother International (USA) Corp., the Third Circuit reached a similar
Continue Reading Third Circuit Rejects South Carolinan’s Effort To Bring Nationwide False Advertising Class Under New Jersey Law

Carlton Fields recently published a survey (pdf) of 368 general counsel and other in-house counsel at major companies across more than 25 industries regarding the class actions they faced in 2012 and their expectations for 2013. A number of the findings were quite interesting:

  • In-house counsel reported that their companies spent $2.1 billion on class actions in 2012, a slight decline from 2011. Per-company spending, however, varied widely, with some companies spending $100 million a year and some as little as $180,000. The per-company average was $3.19 million.
  • In 2012, the typical class action cost $671,100 annually, a


Continue Reading In-House Counsel Predictions of Class Action Trends

In state courts, sometimes you lose even when you win. In a recent false-advertising class action, a California Superior Court entered an order concluding that the testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert—who was the linchpin of the case for class certification and on the merits—was inadmissible, which meant that the defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Wallace v. Monier, LLC (pdf)No. S-CV-0016410 (Cal. Super. Ct. Placer Cty. Jan. 28, 2013).

Sounds great, right—so what’s the problem? The judge waited to decide these issues until after a jury trial on the class claims in which
Continue Reading California Trial Court Rejects “Trial by Formula” Approach to False-Advertising Class Action and Sets Aside Verdict

The requirement that the named plaintiff must be an adequate class representative is not often the basis for denying class certification. But a recent decision from the Northern District of Illinois in a false-advertising class action illustrates the importance of taking discovery on facts that are relevant to the adequacy standard.

In Lipton v. Chattem, Inc., the district court denied class certification in a case alleging that purchasers of a weight-loss product, Dexatrim, had been deceived because the label did not disclose that its ingredients included hexavalent chromium, which allegedly can cause serious health problems. The court held that
Continue Reading Lipton v. Chattem, Inc.: Federal District Court Denies Certification On Adequacy Grounds

Plaintiff Christopher Rapczynski testified that he purchased Skinnygirl Margarita mix “because I love my wife,” she “said she liked it,” and she “has my three children and works very hard.” Those all may be good reasons for a nice Valentine’s Day present, but not for bringing a class action. As the Southern District of New York recently held, Rapczynski was an inadequate class representative—not for lack of love—but because he hadn’t relied on the allegedly false claim on the product’s label about which he was suing. For that and other reasons, the court denied certification of a putative class of
Continue Reading Class Certification Denied in Skinnygirl False-Advertising Case Because Class Representative Didn’t Rely on Label