Class Certification Denied in Alleged Deceptive Labeling Matter
June 18, 2014
A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently denied a motion for class certification in Levi Jones et al. v. ConAgra Foods Inc. Plaintiffs alleged that three ConAgra products -- PAM cooking spray, Hunt's canned tomato, and Swiss Miss hot cocoa -- contained deceptive and misleading labeling. Plaintiffs sought to certify three California classes of consumers who purchased PAM products labeled "100% Natural," Hunt's products labeled "100% Natural" or "Free of Artificial Ingredients & Preservatives," and Swiss Miss products with an antioxidant claim.
A team from Analysis Group -- led by Managing Principal Keith R. Ugone, Vice President Minh P. Doan, and Associate Jeffrey Hulbert -- was retained by Hogan Lovells on behalf of ConAgra to evaluate the plaintiffs' position that standard economic analyses could be used to quantify measures of monetary recovery on a classwide basis.
Dr. Ugone issued two expert reports opining that the claimed injury and damages suffered by putative class members could not be determined on a classwide basis using common proof. The Analysis Group team demonstrated that multiple hurdles existed that would prevent a reliable calculation of damages on a classwide basis, including labeling changes over time, significant variation in prices paid by putative class members, and a lack of a systematic price premium relative to benchmark products. The team also demonstrated that the plaintiffs' proposed approaches (i.e., including restitution, price premium, and regression approaches) would not yield reliable or relevant estimates of the alleged harm suffered by individual class members.
Judge Charles R. Breyer denied plaintiffs' motion for class certification.