In an April 27, 2012 post, “Who Needs TwIqbal?”, John Sullivan examined a putative class action in New Jersey federal court, Young v. Johnson & Johnson. Sullivan credited the defendant for putting a standing argument (usually a bench player) into the starting line-up in the case, and both standing and federal preemption came through in the clutch: The court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims that he had been misled by representations on the labels of the margarine substitute Benecol Spread, finding both that (1) Plaintiff lacked standing because he had not alleged any injury and (2) his claims were preempted because he sought to impose labeling requirements that were not identical to those imposed by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) as amended by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA).
The court also found that Plaintiff’s trans fat claims were barred by preemption. According to Plaintiff, Benecol’s “No Trans Fat” and “No Trans Fatty Acids” statements constituted unauthorized nutrient content claims even though the FDA permits the statements “0g trans fat” or “0 grams trans fat” to appear on food labels. The court, relying on the doctrine of common sense, disagreed with Plaintiff and noted that an attempt to distinguish the statements “No Trans Fat” and “0 grams trans fat” was unreasonable because the two terms are functionally equivalent.