A California federal court has granted plaintiffs’ motion to vacate the judgment and reopened a proposed class action against Attune Foods Inc., finding that the delay in guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on whether “sugar” is the “common or usual name” for “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ), an ingredient that appears on Attune’s labels, could unfairly disadvantage the plaintiffs’ case. Swearingen v. Attune Foods Inc., No. 13-4541 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., Oakland Div., order entered January 28, 2015).
Citing the primary jurisdiction doctrine, the court had dismissed the case without prejudice in May 2014 to await FDA guidance after the agency reopened the comment period in March of that year to determine whether sugar and ECJ are materially different substances. After the plaintiffs sought relief from the judgment, the court has now determined that FDA’s delay could unfairly disadvantage the plaintiffs if the statute of limitations prohibits their claims by the time the agency issues the guidance. Accordingly, the court granted the motion for relief from judgment, reopened the case and entered a stay.