A federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) court in California has certified a nationwide class of consumers who purchased a POM Wonderful pomegranate juice product between October 2005 and September 2010 and allege that the company’s health-related benefit claims are false and misleading.
In re POM Wonderful LLC Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., MDL No. 2199 (U.S. Dist. Ct., C.D. Cal., decided September 28, 2012). The suit was filed under California’s False Advertising Law, Unfair Competition Law and Consumers Legal Remedies Act.
While POM argued that a nationwide class could not be certified because California law cannot be applied to consumers in other states, the company failed to specifically identify conflicts between the laws of California and other states. According to the court, the company simply cited a Ninth Circuit decision “[p]erhaps relying upon the mistaken assumption that California law cannot be applied to a nationwide class as a matter of law,” and included an exhibit charting the consumer protection laws of all the states without indicating “which of these foreign laws differ from California’s laws.” The court found that the company thus failed “to carry its burden to demonstrate that the interests of any foreign jurisdiction outweigh California’s interest in applying its own consumer protection laws to the facts of this case.”
Among other matters, the court also determined that the plaintiffs were not required at the class certification stage to “present individualized evidence of reliance” finding that it could be inferred “[g]iven the wide geographical and temporal scope over which Pom disseminated its health claims and the apparent success of Pom’s marketing efforts.” POM also apparently sought to forestall the certification by reference to the Federal Trade Commission’s action against it as well as dozens of pending individual actions, alleging that these alternatives negated the superiority of the class action device. The court rejected that contention, concluding that common questions of law or fact predominated and that the class action was superior to other available methods. The court also stated that it was “satisfied that the numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy requirements of Rule 23(a) are met here.”