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Pom Wonderful LLC, A Delaware Limited Liability Company v. Ocean Spray Cranberries

October 12, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge


Presently before the court is Plaintiff Pom Wonderful LLC ("Pom")'s Motion for Summary Judgment Re: Ocean Spray's Counterclaims. Having considered the submissions of the parties and heard oral argument, the court grants the motion and adopts the following order.

I. Background

As described in this court's earlier orders, Plaintiff Pom Wonderful LLC ("Pom") filed a complaint against defendant Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. ("Ocean Spray") alleging false advertising and unfair competition claims related to Ocean Spray's marketing of its "100% Juice Cranberry and Pomegranate" product (the "Juice"). (First Amended Complaint ("FAC" ¶18.) The complaint alleges that Ocean Spray misled consumers to believe that the Juice contains significant quantities of cranberry and pomegranate juice, despite the fact that the Juice is comprised largely of apple and grape juice. (FAC ¶¶ 19-22.)

Ocean Spray filed an Answer and counterclaims, including claims for false advertising and unfair competition. (Counterclaim ¶¶ 59-85.) The counterclaim alleges that Pom falsely advertises that Pom's pomegranate juice has health-related benefits. (Counterclaim pp. 11-22.) Ocean Spray further alleges that Pom's false statements have deceived the public and caused injury to Ocean Spray. (Counterclaim ¶¶ 61, 64-65.) Pom now seeks summary judgment on the Counterclaim.

II. Legal Standard

A motion for summary judgment must be granted when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. On an issue as to which the nonmoving party will have the burden of proof, however, the movant can prevail merely by pointing out that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. See id. If the moving party meets its initial burden, the non-moving party must set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 242.

It is not the court's task "to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact." Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1278 (9th Cir. 1996). Counsel have an obligation to lay out their support clearly. Carmen v. San Francisco Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001). The court "need not examine the entire file for evidence establishing a genuine issue of fact, where the evidence is not set forth in the opposition papers with adequate references so that it could conveniently be found." Id.

III. Discussion

As an initial matter, the court observes that Ocean Spray has conceded that it competes with Pom. (Opposition to Pom's Motion for Summary Judgment at 6.) Pom moves for summary judgment on the ground that Ocean Spray has failed to show any evidence that it has suffered actual injury.

A. Money damages

Ocean Spray acknowledges that it has no evidence that Pom's false advertising "had any measurable impact on [Ocean Spray's] sales or profits." (Opp. at 7.) In a similar vein, Ocean Spray recognizes that "there are so few dollars in real damages at stake" that Ocean Spray cannot quantify them. (Opp. at 8.)

Ocean Spray argues, however, that it need not show actual injury to prevail on its false advertising claims for damages. Generally, in a false advertising suit for money damages, "actual evidence of some injury resulting from the deception is an essential element of the plaintiff's case." ...

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