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Aguilar v. Boulder Brands, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 10, 2013

MARIA AGUILAR, on behalf of herself, all others similarly situated, and the general public, Plaintiff,
v.
BOULDER BRANDS, INC., a Delaware corporation (formerly known as Smart Balance, Inc.) and GFA BRANDS, INC., a Delaware corporation, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

BARRY TED MOSKOWITZ, District Judge

On September 18, 2012, Defendants Boulder Brands, Inc. (formerly Smart Balance, Inc.), and GFA Brands, Inc., filed a motion to dismiss the Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("FAC") (ECF No. 8). For the reasons below, Defendants' motion is hereby DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

On August 28, 2012, Plaintiff Maria Aguilar ("Plaintiff") filed the FAC against Boulder Brands, Inc., and GFA Brands, Inc. ("Defendants"), on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated. Defendants control the production, distribution, and sale of Smart Balance butter products throughout the United States. (FAC ¶¶ 11, 12.) Plaintiff alleges that in or around June of 2012, she purchased Smart Balance Light Butter & Canola Oil Blend ("Product") for $3.00 from a Vons in El Centro, California, in reliance on the Product's label. (FAC ¶ 10.) The Product's label states that the addition of plant sterols in the spread "Helps Block Cholesterol in the Butter." (FAC ¶ 16.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants sell, but she did not purchase, two other products under the same alleged false, misleading, and deceptive representation. (FAC ¶ 16.)

Plant sterols reduce cholesterol levels by occupying cholesterol receptors, thereby preventing cholesterol absorption in the intestine. See Malcolm Law, Plant Sterol and Stanol Margarines and Health, 320 Brit. Med. J. 861 (2000) (cited in FAC ¶ 17, n.4). Plaintiff alleges that "in order to experience a reduction in cholesterol a minimum of 0.8 grams... of plant sterols must be consumed daily." (FAC ¶ 17.) Accordingly, Plaintiff alleges that the 0.1 grams of plant sterols found in one serving of Defendants' products, including the Product she purchased, is insufficient to achieve the stated benefit of blocking cholesterol, and thus Defendants knew or should have known that the representations were false, deceptive, and misleading. (FAC ¶¶ 18, 24.)

Plaintiff's FAC asserts the following causes of action: (1) violations of the Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, et seq. ("UCL"), (2) violations of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 1750, et seq. ("CLRA"), and (3) breach of express warranty.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) should be granted only where a plaintiff's complaint lacks a "cognizable legal theory" or sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dept. , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the allegations of material fact in plaintiff's complaint are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington , 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995).

Although detailed factual allegations are not required, factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "A plaintiff's obligation to prove the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id . "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not show[n]-that the pleader is entitled to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants move to dismiss the Plaintiff's FAC on the grounds that (1) Plaintiff lacks standing to pursue claims based on two of the three products listed in the FAC, (2) Plaintiff fails to meet the heightened pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b), (3) Plaintiff fails to allege any actual misrepresentation, (4) Plaintiff fails to state a claim under the appropriate prongs of the UCL, (5) Plaintiff fails to state a claim under the CLRA, and (6) Plaintiff fails to state a claim for breach of express warranty.

The Court addresses each of these arguments in turn.

A. Standing

To establish standing under the UCL, Plaintiff must show that she has suffered injury in fact and has lost money or property as a result of the unfair competition. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17204. Similarly, to establish standing under the CLRA, Plaintiff must claim she was damaged by an alleged unlawful practice. Meyer v. Sprint Spectrum L.P. , 45 Cal.4th 634, 638 (2009). Defendants do not challenge Plaintiff's standing as it pertains to the Product she purchased. Rather, because she was not injured by two of the three ...


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