A federal court in California has issued a tentative rejection of a settlement reached in a putative class action alleging that Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. falsely claims that its ice cream is all natural despite containing genetically modified ingredients. Tobin v. Conopco Inc., No. 1205881 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., notice filed April 15, 2013).
The court’s notice of tentative ruling also raises questions for hearing including (i) “what is the parties’ best argument that venue is proper in this district,” (ii) are the plaintiff’s claims typical of the class claims in light of the defendants’ contention that she lacks standing to bring her claims under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, (iii) is the parties’ proposed notice the best practicable, (iv) do the proposed cy pres charities have any nexus to the claims, and (iv) is it appropriate to reduce the funds available for settlement purposes to cover fees and administrative costs.
According to a news source, the named plaintiff in this class action opted out of a $7.5 million proposed settlement in similar litigation to which the court here refers in framing the issues. Colleen Tobin apparently criticized the other deal because only 5,500 product purchasers submitted claims to share a $33,000 settlement fund. She reportedly contends that her suit and new agreement resolve issues with disproportionate attorney’s fees—said to be 50 times the amount received by the class—and excessive charity awards for a defendant’s foundation. See Law360, April 16, 2013.