A federal court has agreed to certify a class of California consumers allegedly misled by representations that AriZona Iced Tea® is “Natural” because it contains the processed, man-made ingredients high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and citric acid. Ries v. Arizona Beverages USA LLC, No. 10-01139 RS (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., San Francisco Div., order entered November 27, 2012). But the court granted the certification motion “for the purpose of injunctive and declaratory relief only” thus foreclosing the recovery of “monetary damages, including restitution, refund, reimbursement and disgorgement.”
The named plaintiffs had sought certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2), which “does not authorize class certification when each class member would be entitled to an individualized award of monetary damages.” According to the court, the claim for monetary relief predominates the complaint, and the plaintiffs “seek individualized awards of monetary restitution which would require individualized assessments of damages based on how many products the class member had bought,” making the damages calculations “unmanageable under Rule 23(b)(2).”
The court also granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that (i) the plaintiffs sufficiently pleaded economic injury under California’s consumer fraud laws despite lacking receipts to document their losses, (ii) the plaintiffs’ multiple reasons for buying the products did not abrogate their claim that they relied on the defendants’ “all natural” product labeling to purchase the products, (iii) the plaintiffs have standing to pursue injunctive relief even if they now know that the products contain HFCS, and (iv) the named plaintiff who purchased the product in 2006 and threw it away after reading the ingredients list was time-barred from pursuing relief under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act and the False Advertising Law.