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Lilly v. Conagra Foods, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

February 20, 2014

ALETA LILLY, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CONAGRA FOODS, INC., a Delaware corporation, Defendant-Appellee

 Argued and Submitted: February 6, 2014, Pasadena, California

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:12-cv-00225-RGK-SH. R. Gary Klausner, District Judge, Presiding.

REVERSED and REMANDED.

Rosemary M. Rivas (argued) and Danielle A. Stoumbos, Finkelstein Thompson, LLP, San Francisco, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Patrick E. Brookhouser, Jr. (argued), Lauren R. Goodman, and Noah Priluck, McGrath North Mullin & Kratz, PC LLO, Omaha, Nebraska, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before: Barry G. Silverman and Andrew D. Hurwitz, Circuit Judges, and C. Roger Vinson, Senior District Judge.[*] Opinion by Judge Silverman; Dissent by Judge Vinson.

OPINION

Page 663

SILVERMAN, Circuit Judge:

Some days we are called upon to consider such profound issues as eleventh-hour death penalty appeals, catastrophic threats to the environment, intense and existential questions of civil and human rights, and the most complicated, controversial problems in civil, criminal and administrative law. Today we consider the coating on sunflower seeds.

In her putative class action complaint, the plaintiff alleges that the tasty coating placed on sunflower seed shells is intended to be ingested -- and is ingested -- before the inedible shell is spat out and the kernel eaten; that is what is expected before expectoration. Therefore, the sodium content in a " serving" of sunflower seeds, as stated on the package, must include the sodium contained in the edible coating.

Taking those allegations as true for the purposes of a motion to dismiss, we hold today that the sodium content of the edible coating added to sunflower seed shells must, under federal law, be included in the nutritional information disclosed on a package of sunflower seeds. Because plaintiff's state-law claims, if successful, would impose no greater burden than those imposed by federal law, her state law claims are not preempted. We reverse the granting of the defendant's motion to dismiss.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

ConAgra Foods, Inc. sells several varieties of sunflower seeds under ...


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