A federal court in California has dismissed with limited leave to amend the second amended complaint filed on behalf of a putative nationwide class against Welch Foods, alleging that the company’s juice, beverage, spread, and jelly labels and Website violate California labeling law by including “no sugar added,” “all natural,” “no artificial flavors,” and “high in antioxidants” statements. Park v. Welch Foods, Inc., No. 12-6449 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., San Jose Div., order entered September 26, 2013).
Agreeing that the complaint sounded in fraud and must comply with the heightened pleading standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9, the court noted that “Welch is after the who, what, where, when, and how surrounding the circumstances in which Plaintiffs were misled.” The company apparently argued that “portions of the complaint are generously and blindly appropriated from similar complaints filed in this district,” and that a 15-page limit would be appropriate. Still, “Welch wants to know specifically when and where Plaintiffs purchased the particular Welch food products at issue in this litigation. Welch also wants to know how Plaintiffs’ purchase decisions were driven by the alleged misrepresentations on the packaging labels.”
Observing that the 39-page complaint simply summarized food-labeling regulations, referred to agency guidance letters about products not at issue and appeared to “include claims from similar lawsuits filed in the district,” the court found that the plaintiffs had “not supported their ‘allegations with even a minimal degree of factual specificity.’” It also noted that the complaint does not clearly indicate the content of the labels on which the plaintiffs allegedly relied or the ads and Website statements they “saw and supposedly found misleading.” Further, the plaintiffs “do not allege that they personally saw and/or relied on any misleading advertisements or website statements in particular.”
The court dismissed the first six claims with leave to amend by October 30, 2013. It dismissed the plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment/quasi-contract claim as “merely duplicative of statutory or tort claims.”