Jamba Juice Must Defend Claim It Lied on Labels

     (CN) – Consumers who claim that the “All Natural” Jamba Juice home smoothie kits they purchased contained non-natural ingredients were granted class certification, but solely for the purposes of determining liability, a federal judge ruled.
     Lead plaintiffs Aleta Lilly and David Cox seek to represent individuals in California who purchased a Mango-a-go-go, Strawberries Wild, Caribbean Passion, Orange Dream Machine and Razzmatazz smoothie kits.
     The kits are sold in a three-sided pouch with the words “All Natural” appearing prominently on the front of the package. The consumers say that the kits contain ascorbic acid, xanthan gum, steviol glycosides, modified corn starch and gelatin, which are not “all natural.”
     They assert causes of action under California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, and Unfair Competition Law, as well as a cause of action for breach of warranty.
     U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar rejected Jamba Juice’s argument that a class cannot be certified because neither the consumers nor Jamba Juice have produced records demonstrating the specific individual class members who purchased the smoothie kits from the retail outlets to which Jamba Juice distributed them.
     “Few people retain receipts for low-priced goods, since there is little possibility they will need to later verify that they made the purchase. Yet it is precisely in circumstances like these, where the injury to any individual consumer is small, but the cumulative injury to consumers as a group is substantial, that the class action mechanism provides one of its most important social benefits,” Tigar said. “In the absence of a class action, the injury would go unaddressed.”
     Tigar also noted that direct notice to every class member is not always possible. The consumers provided a plan for notice, in which they will give direct notice to those retail customers whose contact information may be on file with the retailer where they purchased the kits, such as those who purchased products from a retailer with store-specific membership cards. They also said that they will do an extensive media campaign to provide notice to other potential class members.
     Jamba Juice also tried to argue that Lilly and Cox are not typical of class members because they have sometimes consumed other products that contain the ingredients they complaint about in the smoothie kits.
     However, “when Lilly and Cox consumed those other products, they did so with full knowledge of what they were eating, because the ingredients were disclosed. That the named plaintiffs sometimes consume products with ingredients they challenge in this action does not harm their case any more than a person who sometimes eats ice cream would be deprived of her legal ability to challenge a product falsely labeled to contain no sugar,” Tigar said.
     The consumers have also demonstrated that there are numerous questions common to the class, including whether Jamba Juice’s “All Natural” representations are misleading, whether the challenged ingredients may legally be included in a product labeled “All Natural,” and whether the representations are likely to deceive consumers.
     The consumers did not produce evidence as to the feasibility of their methods for calculating damages, though. They did not submit expert reports or detailed explanation as to how the three damage models they put forward could be fairly determined or at least estimated.
     “Plaintiffs seek ‘full refund’ as one remedy, but considering the proper value of a restitution remedy may require the court to take into account the benefit consumers receive even from a mislabeled product. Similarly, while plaintiffs also seek disgorgement of defendants’ profits, they may have to demonstrate what portion of those damages stem from the defendants’ purportedly unlawful conduct. Nothing in the record allows the court to determine these issues,” Tigar said.
     Therefore, the class cannot be satisfied for purposes of seeking damages. That does not mean that it cannot be certified at all, though. The certification of the consumers’ action is limited to determining liability on a class-wide basis. Some of the problems in determining individual damages may fall away after liability is determined, Tigar said.

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