On November 21, 2022 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed—after passing on the issue once before—to hear Jack Daniel’s (JDPI) challenge to the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in VIP Prods. LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Props, where the Ninth Circuit affirmed without opinion the district court’s grant of summary judgment to VIP and the dismissal of JDPI’s trademark infringement claim, on the grounds that JDPI could not satisfy either prong of the Rogers test. The Rogers test balances free expression under the First Amendment against the trademark protections of the Lanham Act. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on the questions of whether parody uses of another’s mark receive First Amendment protection from liability under the Lanham Act and whether parody is exempt from claims of dilution by tarnishment under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(3)(C). The decision could clarify the balance between trademark and the First Amendment, an issue that has long-confounded practitioners.Continue Reading More Bark or Bite? U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Whether the First Amendment Has the Teeth to Protect Whiskey Bottle Shaped Dog Toy Maker from Jack Daniel’s Lanham Act Claims
Consumer-driven lawsuits that follow product recalls often focus on what the manufacturer knew and when, bringing a host of fraud-based common law and statutory claims. Sometimes lawsuits go a different route, insisting that companies should warn consumers about every possible complication that could result from the products they manufacture, no matter how remote. A new class action against Lyons Magnus, in Catalono v. Lyons Magnus, LLC, No. 7:22-cv-06867 (S.D.N.Y filed Aug. 11, 2022), is one such case.
In July and August, Lyons Magnus voluntarily recalled 90 of its nutritional beverage products due to possible bacterial contamination from Cronobacter sakazakii and Clostridium botulinum, which can cause food poisoning, fever, and/or urinary tract infection, and in very severe cases, respiratory paralysis and death. And on August 11, 2022, a New York resident sued Lyons Magnus on behalf of nationwide and New York classes of purchasers of the recalled products.Continue Reading Litigation Recall Report: Nationwide Lawsuit Follows Lyons Magnus Recall of Contaminated Products
It is impossible to deny the convenience of having pre-made or ready-to-make meals delivered to your doorstep. Daily Harvest, which launched in 2015, has cornered the market on ready-to-eat, “actually healthy” meal delivery. Recently, however, a recent recall of one of its products after consumers fell ill, has led to several lawsuits against the company.
On June 17th, Daily Harvest initiated a voluntary recall after consumers reported adverse reactions after eating the “French Lentil + Leek Crumbles.” After an investigation, Daily Harvest announced that the source of the problem was tara flour, which is one of the ingredients. Just a short while later, on June 27th, a New York resident filed a putative class action lawsuit against Daily Harvest, Peni v. Daily Harvest, 1:22-cv-05443 (S.D.N.Y. filed June 27, 2022), alleging that she bought and consumed the French Lentil + Leek Crumbles and then “became violently ill with gastrointestinal illness and was hospitalized” for “fever, nausea, extreme abdominal pain, chills and joint pain,” which led in the removal of her gallbladder. The plaintiff seeks to assert strict liability, breach of express and implied warranties, and negligence claims against the company on behalf of a Nationwide and New York subclasses of persons who suffered “gastrointestinal illness” as a result of Daily Harvest’s French Lentil + Leek Crumbles.Continue Reading Litigation Recall Report: Daily Harvest Sued After Recall of French Lentil + Leek Crumbles
Peanut butter has been a staple of the American diet for well over 100 years, but it is rarely newsworthy. That changed recently after J.M. Smucker Co. (“Smucker”) pulled some of its famous Jif-brand peanut butter products from shelves across the country.
In mid-May, Smucker recalled several varieties of Jif peanut butter as a result of potential salmonella contamination after customers reported illnesses in several states. Shortly after the recall, on May 25, South Carolina resident, John Kraljevich filed a putative class action lawsuit in Kentucky, Kraljevich v. The J.M. Smucker Company, No. 5:22-cv-00134-GFVT (E.D. Ky. filed May 25, 2022). Although plaintiff Kraljevich does not allege that he contracted salmonella or was ever sick after consuming Jif peanut butter, he alleges that he would not have purchased these products if he had known about the contamination and as a result, he and other purchasers suffered economic loss. Plaintiff Kraljevich asserts claims for breach of warranty, negligence, strict liability, fraud, unjust enrichment, and punitive damages on behalf of himself as well as nationwide and South Carolina classes of purchasers of the recalled products.Continue Reading Recall Litigation Report: J.M. Smucker Co. Faces Class Action Suits Following Jif Peanut Butter Recall
In the wake murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the demonstrations that followed, brands pledged to support anti-racism and solidarity with the Black community. Some companies professed that they would make large donations to social justice organizations, leading commentators to ponder whether brands were “woke washing.” At the end of Black History Month, the National Advertising Division (“NAD”) announced that it investigated two companies making express claims committing to sizable charitable contributions to ensure that those claims were substantiated. See Niantic, Inc. (Advertising by Niantic Labs), Report #7037, NAD/CARU Case Reports (February 2022) and DoorDash, Inc. (Advertising by DoorDash, Inc.), Report #7036, NAD/CARU Case Reports (February 2022).
Continue Reading NAD Makes Clear that “Woke Washing” is False Advertising
A new trend in false advertising lawsuits targets specific characterizing flavor claims on the labels of foods and beverages. For example, Frito-Lay was recently sued in California federal court alleging the company’s “Tostito’s Hint of Lime” tortilla chips falsely implies that natural lime is a primary flavoring ingredient and that consumers were misled by various misrepresentations of lime on the product packaging. Kellogg, Hershey, and Bimbo Bakeries were all sued because the “fudge” in their respective products allegedly are produced with vegetable oil substitutes instead of butter and milk, which the complaint alleges is known to consumers as the traditional way of making fudge.
Typically, in these false or misleading flavoring ingredient lawsuits, a plaintiff attempts to represent a class of consumers and alleges they were charged a premium price for the products because of the specific ingredient, based on the misleading representation. The plaintiff generally must also allege that they would not have purchased the product in the first place if they had known that the specific ingredient was missing.Continue Reading Despite the Pandemic, Food-Related False Advertising Lawsuits Continue to be Frequent Filers
Case: Parlour Enterprises, Inc. v. The Kirin Group, Inc., No. G036525 (Cal. Ct. App. 6/19/07)
The One Sentence Summary: Lost profits awarded by jury for breach of franchise agreement were reversed due to speculative expert testimony based on unreliable proforma financial projections and market data for other restaurants not shown to be sufficiently similar…