(CN) – A federal judge has certified a class alleging Twinings of North America Inc. mislabels green, black and white teas by extolling them as a source of antioxidants.
Though Twinings teas contain flavonoids, which are a type of antioxidant that occurs naturally in certain fruits and vegetables, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not established a recommended daily intake for flavonoids.
Lead plaintiff Nancy Lanovaz claimed in a 2012 federal class action Twinings has been contravening FDA regulations by making content claims about the antioxidants.
Her third amended complaint, filed in San Jose, Calif., alleged that the labels and information on the Twinings website are “deceptive, misleading and unlawful even if technically true.”
Because California has adopted the FDA’s labeling laws, Lanovaz said the company has also violated the state’s unfair-competition and false-advertising laws, as well as the Consumers Legal Remedies Act.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte denied Twinings earlier this year but did find that the Clifton, N.J.-based subsidiary of Associated British Foods did not make e a health claim by characterizing “the relationship of any substance to a disease or health-related condition.”
On Thursday, Whyte approved class certification under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure for injunctive relief only, denying certification for monetary relief.
“Lanovaz has not presented a viable theory for monetary relief,” the 13-page opinion states.
“Plaintiffs do not present any damages model capable of estimating the price premium attributable to Twinings’ antioxidant labels,” he added. “Because the price premium attributable to the antioxidant labels is the only legal permissible measure of damages, plaintiff has failed to satisfy the requirements for class certification.”
Whyte also approved Pierce Gore of Pratt & Associates, J. Price Coleman of Coleman Law Firm, and Brian Herrington of Barrett Law Group P.A. as class counsel, and Lanovaz as class representative.
Twinings made several motions for a protective order sealing confidential business documents related, but not crucial, to the case. Some of the exhibits in question contain sensitive “list price” information, wholesale pricing, marketing research and “narrowly tailored confidential business information.”
Whyte partly denied portions of three motions Thursday and otherwise granted them in full.
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