The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio granted preliminary approval for another class action settlement related to beverage label claims on September 25—this time involving the Coca-Cola Company. The settlement involves label claims related to Coca-Cola’s Vitaminwater and arises from four putative class actions filed in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, and the Virgin Islands. The cases alleged that Vitaminwater’s product name, description, slogans, and flavor names misled consumers by causing them to believe that the product would provide various health benefits whose validity was brought into question by the plaintiffs.
Without admitting any fault or wrongdoing, Coca-Cola agreed to pay $1.2 million in attorney fees to the plaintiffs. It also agreed to implement the injunctive relief requested, including removing claims such as “vitamins + water = all you need,” “made for the center for responsible hydration,” and “specially formulated with nutrients that enable the body to exert physical power by contributing to structural integrity of the musculoskeletal system, and by supporting optimal generation and utilization of energy from food.” Additionally, Coca-Cola agreed to begin specifying calorie counts on the principal display panel of Vitaminwater products.
The settlement marks another episode in the recent wave of consumer class action litigation over food ingredients and labeling claims. Industry players should continue to monitor Well Done for updates on the trend as we follow this evolving risk to the food industry.