A California federal court has granted Blue Diamond’s motion to decertify a statewide class of consumers who alleged that the company’s almond milk product labels were misleading because they cited “evaporated cane juice” on the ingredient list rather than the alleged common name for the substance, sugar. Werdebaugh v. Blue Diamond Growers, No. 12-2724 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., order entered December 15, 2014).
The court had preliminarily certified the class in May 2014 on the condition that the plaintiff could provide a damages model that limited recovery to those injured by the alleged mislabeling. Upon reviewing the proposed model, the court found fundamental flaws with the method of determining damages “because Dr. Capps’ model is incapable of isolating the damages attributable to Defendant’s alleged wrongdoing.  Instead, Dr. Capps’ methodology measures the ‘combined effect’ of Blue Diamond’s brand value and Blue Diamond’s use of ‘evaporated cane juice’ and/or ‘All Natural’ on the prices of the challenged products.” The model also failed to account for the fact that many of Blue Diamond’s competitors use similar labeling claims, the court said, and it accordingly granted Blue Diamond’s motion to decertify. Additional information about the case appears in Issues 499, 525 and 536 of this Update.