The plaintiffs’ theory of harm drove a recent decision from the Central District of California certifying a nationwide class of purchasers of ten homeopathic products. Allen v. Hyland’s Inc., Case No. 12-01150 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 1, 2014) (Docket No. 291). The Allen plaintiffs contend that Hyland’s Inc.’s homeopathic products were mislabeled as to their uses and effectiveness because the products’ active ingredients are so diluted that the products are ineffective. In her certification order, Judge Gee relied on this theory in finding commonality, typicality, and predominance, including that damages are subject to classwide proof.
Commonality: As to commonality, the court explained that if the plaintiffs prove that homeopathy is nothing more than “pseudoscience” and that the products do not perform as advertised, the class will be entitled to relief. The court rejected the argument that the plaintiffs’ claims would require analysis of each putative class member’s symptoms and the active ingredient of each challenged product: if the plaintiffs’ theory is correct—that Hyland “made material misrepresentations about products which do not work and cannot possibly work as a matter of scientific principle”—then the court need not conduct any individual inquiries.
Typicality: Next, the class satisfied typicality because any differences between the named plaintiffs and the putative class—such as symptoms, shopping habits, and litigiousness—did not affect the plaintiffs’ ability to prove liability under their theory that the products do not work.
Predominance: The court’s predominance analysis likewise turned on the plaintiffs’ theory that homeopathy is spurious. The defendant suggested that different proof would be required to contest the effectiveness of each product at issue. Hyland’s also argued that the challenged products have different rates of dilution and work for some people. The court found these arguments to miss the mark in light of the plaintiffs’ contention that none of the products can possibly be effective due to the high rates of dilution.
Damages Model: As for a viable damages model, the court rejected the defendant’s claim that damages are not subject to classwide proof. The court explained that the plaintiffs’ position that they are entitled to full restitution of the product price is properly linked to their theory that the products are entirely ineffective. And that amount can easily be calculated from the defendant’s sales data and an average retail price.
Here, the alleged complete lack of efficacy of the products at issue led the court to certify the class despite the potential individual issues raised by the defendant.