A federal court in the Southern District of California has transferred to the Northern District a lawsuit filed in January 2014 against Pepsico, Inc., alleging that its products violate the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Prop. 65) because they contain 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a chemical included on the Prop. 65 list of substances known to the state to cause cancer, and the company has not provided appropriate consumer warnings. Riva v. Pepsico, Inc., No. 14-0340 (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Cal., order entered April 30, 2014). Eight similar federal lawsuits against Pepsico were filed either in the Northern District or transferred there and are scheduled for a May 29, 2014, case management conference. Finding that transfer to the Northern District would promote the efficient use of judicial resources, the court granted the defendant’s motion.
The plaintiffs had argued that under the first-to-file rule, all of the cases should have been transferred to the Southern District, but the court disagreed. According to the court, the inconvenience to the other parties and witnesses would be somewhat greater, because more cases were filed elsewhere and have progressed further than Riva. The court also noted that “all actions, wherever located, are attorney-driven statutory consumer class actions and generally require only limited participation of the individual class representative. No actual individual damages need be demonstrated to prevail in these consumer class actions thereby limiting the role of the named plaintiff.” The court further indicated that “the first-to-file rule was not adopted to award the winner of the race to the courthouse with the status of class counsel.”