Tagged: Fraudulent Misrepresentation

Does “100% Natural” Mean “No GMOs”? First Circuit Holds That Deceptive Label Claim Not Barred Where FDA Leaves Question Unresolved

On May 7, 2020, the First Circuit in Lee v. Conagra Brands, Inc., reversed the dismissal of a consumer fraud class action on the ground that the complaint plausibly stated that the product’s “100% Natural” statement may be deceptive to a consumer where the product contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In Lee, the plaintiff claimed that a “100% Natural” representation on the product label for Wesson Oil enticed her to buy the product because it indicated to her that the oil was GMO-free, when in fact it was not. She filed a class action alleging unfair or deceptive trade practices in violation of the Massachusetts consumer fraud law, Chapter 93A. The district court granted Conagra’s motion to dismiss, finding that the “100% Natural” language was “consistent with the FDA’s longstanding policy for the use of the term ‘natural’ on the labels of human food.” Additionally, the district court held that the FDA does not require a product to disclose on its label the use of GMOs. An act or practice violates Chapter 93A if it is “either unfair or deceptive.” The First Circuit’s decision addressed only the “deceptive” prong as plaintiff failed to raise, and thus waived, any argument that the label was “unfair.” Noting that its “analysis begins and ends with the allegations in...

Third Circuit Clarifies Scope of Liability for Insurance Companies Under the Consumer Fraud Act

In a precedential decision interpreting the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), the Third Circuit determined that an automobile insurance carrier may be liable under the CFA for deceptively inducing one of its customers into releasing claims against another party represented by the carrier. In Alpizar-Fallas v. Favero, Defendant’s car struck Plaintiff’s vehicle, causing serious injury and damages. Both parties were insured by Defendant’s insurance company, Progressive. A Progressive claims adjuster arrived at Plaintiff’s home and presented her with a document that he claimed required her signature. The adjuster represented that by signing the document Plaintiff would expedite the claim process. Plaintiff signed the document relying on the adjuster’s statements. The document, however, was a “comprehensive general release of any and all claims” against defendant driver, also insured by Progressive. Plaintiff was not advised by the adjuster to seek counsel. Plaintiff subsequently brought a putative class action against Progressive for violation of the CFA. On Progressive’s motion, the district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims, reasoning that the CFA did not apply to “an insurance company’s refusal to pay benefits” but only to the “sale or marketing” of the policies. On appeal, the Third Circuit reversed, holding that the district court mischaracterized Plaintiff’s claim as one for denial of her benefits. Reaffirming its 2007 decision in Weiss...

Parties Must Clearly Agree to Delegate Arbitrability to an Arbitrator, Says the NJ Supreme Court

In its most recent pronouncement on arbitration clauses, the New Jersey Supreme Court confirmed that it is for the Court, and not an arbitrator, to determine whether the parties have agreed to arbitrate consumer fraud claims in the absence of a clear delegation clause to the contrary. In Morgan v. Sanford Brown Inst., the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed an order of the Appellate Division holding that arbitrability was for the arbitrator to decide, finding that under Atalese v. U.S. Legal Servs. Grp. and First Options of Chi., Inc. v. Kaplan, the agreement to delegate arbitrability to an arbitrator must, as with the other arbitration provisions, clearly inform the average consumer of the rights he or she is giving up.

Third Circuit Finds Proposed Dual Service as Class Counsel and Class Representative Does Not Preclude CAFA Removal

The Third Circuit recently considered whether the District Court properly denied a motion for remand brought by a pro se plaintiff, an attorney also seeking to serve as class counsel, who argued that since his “dual service” precluded class certification in federal court, the defendant could not aggregate the proposed class’s claims to satisfy the $5 million amount in controversy under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”). In affirming the denial of the plaintiff’s remand motion, the Third Circuit built upon recent Supreme Court precedent confirming that a plaintiff cannot stipulate to less than $5 million in damages to avoid the federal court’s subject matter jurisdiction under CAFA.

Pleading Setback Stalls N.J. Moldy Washing Machine Class Action, Which Will Face Uncertainty in Light of Comcast

A New Jersey moldy washing machine class action suffered a big pleading setback after the District of New Jersey held that the lengthy complaint still contained insufficient detail to place the defendant on notice of the precise misconduct alleged. But even if plaintiffs replead their case, their ultimate goal of class certification may be stymied in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, and its collateral effect upon other defective washing machine putative class actions.