POM Wonderful's Decertification Decision Will Be Hard to Swallow for the Plaintiffs' Class Action Bar

On March 25, 2014, Judge Dean Pregerson, of the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, decertified a nationwide class of consumers in a class action brought against POM Wonderful LLC over allegedly false and misleading health claims related to its pomegranate juice. Judge Pregerson's decertification order is significant because it makes class certification more difficult for plaintiffs, requiring that: 1) Plaintiffs comport with the rigorous analysis of class-wide damages set forth in the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133. S. Ct 1426 (2013); and 2) Plaintiffs demonstrate that the putative class is ascertainable, which has been the recent focus of many courts, many of whom have denied class certification on that basis. See, e.g., Carrera v. Bayer Corp., 727 F. 3d 300 (3d Cir. 2013).

First, Judge Pregerson found that the two damages models offered by Plaintiffs' experts failed to support a class action, as the models failed to show that Plaintiffs' damages stemmed from the defendant's actions that created the legal liability, as required by the Supreme Court's rigorous analysis in Comcast. The first damages model – the "Full Refund" model – assumed that consumers purchased POM's juice solely based on their alleged health benefits and therefore used the full retail price paid as the measure of damages. The Court found that this model could not accurately measure class-wide damages because it ignored any benefit or value consumers may have gotten from drinking POM's juice. The second damages model – the "Price Premium" model – quantified damages by comparing the price of POM with other refrigerated juices of the same size because it assumed that demand for POM would have been less and the POM market price would have been lower if not for the alleged misrepresentations. In rejecting this damages model, the Court found that it failed to explain how POM's health claims caused any damages or comport with Comcast's requirement that class-wide damages be tied to a legal theory.

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Topics:  Class Action, Coca Cola, Comcast v. Behrend, Food Labeling, POM Wonderful, SCOTUS

Published In: Civil Procedure Updates, Communications & Media Updates, Consumer Protection Updates, Products Liability Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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