Class Certification Denied in Juice Dispute
Recently, a New Jersey federal district court judge refused to certify a class of consumers claiming an orange juice product was mislabeled as “pasteurized.” In re: Tropicana Orange Juice Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, 2018 WL 497071 (D.N.J. Jan. 22, 2018). According to plaintiffs, Tropicana’s “Pure Premium” orange juice contained added natural flavoring in violation of FDA pasteurization standards. The court denied the class certification motion because plaintiffs failed to prove that common issues predominated under Rule 23(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Since multiple named plaintiffs testified that they did not even see the word “pasteurized” on the product label, much less rely on it, class certification was put out to pasture.
At the certification stage, the evidence showed that plaintiffs considered various factors when buying orange juice, including price, vitamin content, taste, reduced sugar content and name recognition. However, only one of seven named plaintiffs cited the product being pasteurized as a factor in her purchasing decision. One plaintiff did not recall seeing the word “pasteurized” on the label, and another admitted she did not even look at the label. Additionally, plaintiffs’ own survey showed that over twenty percent of respondents would purchase the product even with knowledge it did not conform to the FDA’s pasteurization standard, which “suggest[ed] a great variation in how putative subclass members would react to the knowledge that [Tropicana’s Pure Premium] did conform to the standard.” Id. at *8. On this evidence, the court held that questions of fact predominated over common issues with respect to all of plaintiffs’ remaining claims for relief.