A Massachusetts federal court has dismissed a lawsuit alleging ACH Food Companies Inc. mislabeled its Weber® barbecue sauce as “All Natural” despite containing caramel coloring, finding that a $75-rebate rendered the case moot. Demmler v. ACH Food Cos. Inc., No. 15-13556 (D. Mass., order entered June 9, 2016). Details about the complaint appear in Issue 582 of this Update.
The court found ACH had tendered full relief to the plaintiff by sending him treble statutory damages. Further, “the $75 check did not represent a settlement offer—ACH sent the check unprompted, and did not impose any preconditions on [the plaintiff] for doing so. This distinction makes all the difference,” the court held. The plaintiff could not pursue damages when he had already been made whole, the court noted, and his “refusal to accept the $75 is immaterial. The question under Article III is whether a live case or controversy exists, and the mere fact that [the plaintiff] did not accept unconditionally-provided remediation does not extend the life of the dispute.”
The court also found the class claims to be no longer viable. “[The plaintiff] argues that the Court should infer that ACH sought to thwart judicial review by satisfying only [his] individual claims, and not those of the class members,” the court said. “On this record such an inference is untenable. ACH discontinued, prior to [the plaintiff’s] demand letter, the very product about which [he] complained, and made [him] whole in response to his initial demand.”