Ruling that the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that a dietary supplement promised weight loss, a California federal court judge threw out a putative class action against Vitamin Shoppe.
Seeking a product that would help with weight loss, Andrea Nathan purchased a bottle of Garcinia Cambogia Extract labeled “Weight Management” and “Appetite Control” in February 2017. She later sued, alleging violations of California’s False Advertising Law (FAL), Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) because the product was “nothing more than a placebo.”
Vitamin Shoppe asked the court to dismiss the suit, arguing that the label made no promises about weight loss and that it had studies to back up the statements on the product.
The court agreed and granted the motion. It was irrelevant whether the defendant could back up the statements with studies proving the active ingredients in the product resulted in weight loss “because the phrases themselves do not inherently promise weight loss benefits,” U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez wrote.
“The first problem with Plaintiff’s complaint is her assertion that the phrases ‘Weight Management’ and ‘Appetite Control’ equate to representations that the Product provides weight loss benefits,” the court said. “‘Weight Management’ suggests management or control of one’s weight, whose upward or downward departure may differ depending on an individual’s goals, i.e., to gain, lose, or maintain one’s weight. ‘Appetite Control’ indicates control of one’s appetite, which may or may not ultimately result in weight loss.”
Further, the plaintiff did not allege that any other statements, advertising or other communications by the defendant promoted the product as a weight loss supplement. “Instead, she merely provides her own subjective belief of the type of supplement and benefits she was looking for at the time she purchased the Product and attributed the same to the product,” the court wrote. “As a result, this alleged deficiency cannot serve as the basis for Plaintiff’s UCL, FAL, or CLRA claims.”
Judge Benitez found a second problem with the plaintiff’s complaint in her challenge to the studies upon which the defendant based its ad claims. The only conclusion regarding the representations at issue “merely states that its results ‘did not support the hypothesis that HCA supplementation may be effective on appetite and weight control by increasing fat oxidation,’” the court said. “The court finds this qualifying language is not sufficient to raise a plausible claim or falsity or a misrepresentation.”
While the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, it did so without prejudice.
To read the order in Nathan v. Vitamin Shoppe, Inc., click here.
Why it matters: With a literal reading of the label, the court found that claims the product helped with “Weight Management” and “Appetite Control” did not promise weight loss, as the plaintiff maintained. Her subjective belief was insufficient to form the basis of relief under the various California statutes, the court said, granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss.