Allison Nelson filed a putative class action alleging that Mead Johnson violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (“FDUTPA”) by misrepresenting its Enfamil LIPIL infant formula as the only infant formula that contains DHA and ARA. Nelson moved to certify a class of “[a]ll Florida consumers who purchased Enfamil® LIPIL® within the applicable statute of limitations.”
In ruling on Nelson’s class certification motion, the Florida federal court held that unlike a claim for common law fraud, a claim for violation of FDUTPA does not require a purchaser to prove actual reliance on a misrepresentation. FDUTPA, the court held, instead only requires a purchaser to prove that a “practice was likely to deceive a consumer acting reasonably in the same circumstances.” The class members, the court thus further held, “need not submit individualized proof to establish causation.” Common proof as to whether Mead’s representations would deceive a reasonably-acting consumer could establish liability under FDUTPA as to all class members.
Based on this interpretation of FDUTPA, the court ruled that plaintiff’s class claims satisfy Fed. R. Civ. P. 23’s commonality and typicality requirements and that, as also required by Rule 23, common issues predominate over individualized issues and a class action is the superior method of adjudicating the case. The court accordingly granted Nelson’s motion and certified the class. Nelson v. Mead Johnson Nutrition Co., 2010 WL 4282106 (S.D. Fl. Nov. 1, 2010).
Nelson’s holding that FDUTPA does not require a purchaser to prove actual reliance and accordingly does not require individualized proof of causation highlights that statutory (or consumer) fraud claims often provide a basis for class certification under circumstances in which a common law fraud claim would not.