A federal judge for the Central District of California has denied class certification to a group of plaintiffs from all 50 states in a purported class action false advertising suit against Alacer Corp., the maker of Emergen-C drink mix. The lawsuit alleges that the defendant falsely advertises Emergen-C as a supplement which boosts the immune system and can decrease the likelihood of illness.
The court held that the laws of every state would apply to the action, and the substantial differences among state laws would "swamp any common issues and interject a multitude of different legal standards governing a particular claim." The court rejected the plaintiffs' contention that California consumer protection laws should be applied to the entire class, noting that the differences in injury, reliance, and deception requirements among the states' laws may well "mean the difference between success and failure." The court held that the application of California law to all claims of a nationwide class would impair the individual states' ability to protect their own consumers, and each class member's claims must be governed by the law of the state in which the transaction occurred.
TIP: Plaintiffs routinely bring lawsuits with a proposed nationwide class under state consumer protection laws of the forum state. However, there are material differences among state consumer protection laws that go to the essential elements of the claim. Companies defending such suits should consider raising these differences in opposition to a motion for class certification to narrow the scope of the proposed class to consumers in the forum state.