(CN) – The 11th Circuit vacated the class certification of a lawsuit that says General Mills misrepresented the digestive benefits of its YoPlus yogurt.
“While we agree with the legal analysis of the District Court, because the definition of the class it certified was in conflict with that analysis, we are uncertain of exactly what class it intended to certify,” Judge Peter Fay wrote for the three-judge panel.
Lead plaintiff Julie Fitzpatrick sued General Mills for deceptive trade practices and breach of warranty in March 2009.
“YoPlus is an ordinary yogurt supplemented with probiotic bacteria, inulin, and vitamins A and D,” the ruling states. “The mixture of probiotic bacteria and inulin in YoPlus allegedly provides habitual consumers with digestive health benefits by aiding in the promotion of digestive health.”
Fitzpatrick says she ate about 96 cartons of YoPlus in 2008 but never experienced any of the advertised benefits.
“She contends that General Mills’ digestive health benefit claim has allowed General Mills to sell YoPlus for an average of 44 percent more than Yoplait Original brand yogurt despite that fact that it provides no digestive health benefit that cannot be obtained by eating normal yogurt,” the ruling states.
The Southern District of Florida denied class certification for the breach-of-warranty claim, but granted it for the claim under Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUPTA). The judge defined the class as “all persons who purchased YoPlus in the State of Florida to obtain its claimed digestive health benefit.”
General Mills challenged the definition, arguing that each member of the class should have to prove they bought YoPlus specifically for the advertised benefits.
The federal judge had repeatedly said that the class members could simply prove that such advertising would deceive an objective reasonable person, rather than reliance on the allegedly false statement.
But the Atlanta-based appellate court found the definition of the class does not follow this reasoning, as it limits the class to only those who bought YoPlus “to obtain its claimed digestive health benefit.”
“If the definition of the class had been in accord with the legal analysis, we would have readily affirmed,” Judge Fay wrote. “However, at the end of the District Court’s order, it defined the class in a manner which seems to conflict with its earlier sound analysis.”