The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has denied transfer to a multidistrict litigation (MDL) court of consumer-fraud lawsuits involving Capatriti brand “100% Pure Olive Oil” made by Kangadis Food Inc. d/b/a The Gourmet Factory and numerous snack, cereal, protein bar, and frozen entrée products made by the Kashi Co. In re Capatriti Brand Olive Oil Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., MDL No. 2469; In re Kashi Co. Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., MDL No. 2456 (J.P.M.L., decided August 6, 2013).
According to the court, centralization is not appropriate in the olive oil suit because the Southern District of New York action has made “significant progress” and the number of actions pending in adjacent districts is small with a “correspondingly limited number of involved counsel and courts.” Because the plaintiff in a New Jersey action has considered voluntarily transferring his action to New York, the JPML found that alternatives to centralization such as the transfer “or voluntary cooperation among the few involved counsel and two judges . . . appear to be workable and, in our judgment, preferable to centralization in these circumstances.” The plaintiffs allege that the products are misbranded because they actually contain olive-residue oil, or Pomace.
The JPML refused to centralize the Kashi litigation, finding that the issues are not “sufficiently complex or numerous to warrant the creation of an MDL.” The court acknowledged that the suits share some factual issues, that is, “whether Kashi inappropriately listed ‘evaporated cane juice’ or ‘evaporated cane juice crystals’ as ingredients in numerous food products,” but concluded that “centralization would not necessarily serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses or promote the just and efficient conduct of the actions” in light of the small number of actions and districts involved. The court suggested that counsel dismiss the New Jersey action and refile it in California or seek transfer from New Jersey to California, noting that “all the parties are amenable to proceeding in the Southern District of California.”