A California federal court has granted statewide class certification in a case against Nutraceutical Corp. alleging that the company’s sale of its Cobra Sexual Energy dietary supplement violated state unfair competition and false advertising laws. Ortega v. Natural Balance Inc., No. 13-5942 (U.S. Dist. Ct., C.D. Cal., order entered June 19, 2014). Assessing the plaintiffs’ motion under Rule 23’s class-certification requirements, the court concluded that “the class action procedure is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.”
The plaintiffs allege that Cobra’s ingredients had not been proven individually or in combination to enhance virility as Nutraceutical’s packaging claimed and seek full refunds for the $16 to $17 purchase price. They claim that some ingredients—including yohimbe bark extract and Brazilian “potency wood”— are potentially harmful for customers with particular medical or psychological conditions and fail to increase sexual desire or ability. A similar case against Nutraceuticals was denied class certification in 2011 because the plaintiff had purchased the supplement for her husband’s use rather than her own, so the court deemed her atypical of the potential class.
In its analysis, the court dismissed the previous class-certification denial as irrelevant because the plaintiffs here were typical class members who had purchased the product for themselves. The court limited the class, however, from the plaintiffs’ proposed group encompassing Californians who purchased the product after January 1, 2006, to only those purchasers whose claims were not barred by a statute of limitations. The plaintiffs argued that claims as old as 2006 should be allowed because of the delayed discovery rule despite the four-year statute of limitations, but the court dismissed that argument because the plaintiffs had “no personal interest” in asserting the rule. The court also found the class to be ascertainable, the plaintiffs to be adequate representative parties, and the class-action procedure to be the most efficient method of resolving the claims.