High Court Clips Class Wings on Suit Over Sex Pills

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Supreme Court handed defeat Tuesday to a man who tried to bring a class action over Cobra Sexual Energy Pills.

Alleging violations of California consumer-protection law, Troy Lambert brought the lawsuit here in March 2013 against the Nutraceutical Corp.

The complaint took aim at several perceived injustices, including Nutraceutical’s failure to provide clinical testing in support of its libidinous claims, and its failure include a warning label about yohimbe, an ingredient in the supplement that can be dangerous for some people in certain doses.

Though Lambert wanted to represent similarly situated buyers, a federal judge decertified the class after finding that Lambert could neither show an average retail price nor provide a classwide model for damages.

Rather than appeal that decertification order with 14 days, as required by the Rules of Civil Procedure, Lambert filed a motion for reconsideration.

This maneuver proved unsuccessful, however, and Lambert finally appealed to the Ninth Circuit on July 8, 2015 — more than four months after the decertification order was issued.

Despite Nutraceutical’s objections, however, the Ninth Circuit accepted the appeal after detemining that the statute of limitations could be put on hold, a process known as tolling, under certain circumstances.

Writing for the unanimous Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday disagreed.

“Whether a rule precludes equitable tolling turns not on its jurisdictional character but rather on whether the text of the rule leaves room for such flexibility,” the opinion states. “Where the pertinent rule or rules invoked show a clear intent to preclude tolling, courts are without authority to make exceptions merely because a litigant appears to have been diligent, reasonably mistaken, or otherwise deserving. Courts may not disregard a properly raised procedural rule’s plain import any more than they may a statute’s.”

Sotomayor continued that the time limit here is written to be inflexible, “compel[ling] rigorous enforcement of Rule 23(f)’s deadline, even where good cause for equitable tolling might otherwise exist.”

Nutraceutical was represented by the Los Angeles firm Hueston Hennigan. Lambert was represented by San Diego attorney Ronald Marron and by Jonathan Herstoff at Haug Partners in Manhattan.

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