The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a grant of summary judgment to Dole Packaged Foods in a lawsuit alleging the company misleads consumers by labeling its packaged fruit products as “all natural” in violation of California consumer-protection statutes. Brazil v. Dole Packaged Foods, No. 12-1831 (9th Cir., order entered September 30, 2016).
The appeals court reviewed the evidence before it—including the plaintiff’s testimony that the “all natural” label deceived him, the label itself, Dole’s consumer surveys and U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning letters—and found that “this evidence could allow a trier of fact to conclude that Dole’s description of its products as ‘All Natural Fruit’ is misleading to a reasonable consumer.” Accordingly, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded the case to the district court.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of claims alleging Dole sold “illegal products.” The plaintiff “seems to be suggesting that Dole’s website statements about certain fruit products subject him to risk of fine or prosecution if he is found in possession of that fruit product,” the court noted. “We are unable to find support for this outlandish theory in the decisions of the California courts.”