There is a tidal wave of class-action food labeling litigation flooding federal courts right now, led by lawyers looking to cash in on subjective interpretations of marketing terms like “natural” and “healthy.”
A U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform study found 425 active cases between 2015 and 2016 compared to just 19 in 2008. A fifth were in New York, which, according to the group, bears the highest annual cost of tort litigation of any state at $6,066 per household.
“We’re not saying this particular case should or shouldn’t be brought,” said the group’s spokesman, Bryan Quigley. “But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this is a consumer-driven case to help people, and the lawyers are there to bring justice.
“This is lawyer-driven litigation for the purposes of a settlement that often enriches the plaintiffs’ firm and gives the broad class pennies or coupons.”
Some recent headline grabbers include:
A Buffalo woman who led a class-action against the manufacturer of Canada Dry Ginger Ale because the soda didn’t contain real ginger.
A class-action lawsuit out of Albany that claimed the American Heart Association’s logo on StarKist Tuna misrepresented the brand as healthier than other tunas.
A Manhattan woman who sued Tootsie Roll Industries on behalf of Junior Mints consumers, claiming half her box of Junior Mints was filled with air, despite the weight of the candy being listed on the package.
The latter case was tossed by a judge who said, “The law simply does not provide the level of coddling the plaintiff seeks.”
No one wants to fall victim to false advertising, and there should be recourse for consumers who’ve been legitimately defrauded. Companies that engage in bogus marketing should get pinched, like tobacco companies.
But what reasonable consumer has been aggrieved by the claims in such cases or, in this case, the term “naturally soothing?”
None, says Adam Morey, of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.
“When judges throw these cases out, they often do so on the grounds that a reasonable consumer would not find that to be injurious,” Morey said. “This looks like one of those cases.”
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