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Major v. Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

February 26, 2015

NOELLE MAJOR, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
OCEAN SPRAY CRANBERRIES, INC., Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION Re: Dkt. No. 50, 55

EDWARD J. DAVILA, District Judge.

Plaintiff Noelle Major ("Plaintiff") filed this putative class action against Defendant Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. ("Defendant"). Plaintiff has alleged that several of Defendant's food products have been improperly labeled so as to amount to misbranding and deception in violation of several California and federal law. Presently before the Court are two matters: (1) Plaintiff's second Motion for Class Certification filed pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and (2) Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. See Docket Item Nos. 50, 55. Having fully reviewed the parties' papers, and for the reasons explained below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification as moot.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a resident of California, alleges that she purchased several of Defendant's products in her home state. The Amended Complaint states that Plaintiff purchased "Ocean Spray juices and drinks" that were allegedly "unlawfully labeled No Sugar Added' or bearing improper nutrient content claims, or false representations that the products are free from artificial colors, flavors or preservatives." Am. Compl., Docket Item No. 37, at ¶ 1. The Amended Complaint also states that she purchased Defendant's products with the following labels: (1) Blueberry Juice Cocktail, (2) 100% Juice Cranberry & Pomegranate, (3) Diet Sparkling Pomegranate Blueberry, (4) Light Cranberry, and (5) Ruby Cherry. Id. at ¶¶ 156-57. Plaintiff purchased the Diet Sparkling Pomegranate Blueberry drink and the Light Cranberry drink once each. Decl. of Daniell K. Newman, Ex. A, Noelle Major Deposition ("Major Depo.") at 48:7-12, 59:21-60:3. Plaintiff purchased the Ruby Cherry drink, the Blueberry Juice Cocktail drink, and the 100% Juice Cranberry & Pomegranate on multiple occasions. Id. at 68:7-69:2, 80:10-25, 94:24-95:6.

On March 29, 2013, Plaintiff filed her first Motion for Class Certification, appointment of class representative, and appointment of class counsel. See Docket Item No. 23. Defendant opposed the motion. See Docket Item No. 33. On June 10, 2013, the Court denied Plaintiff's Motion because she did not satisfy the typicality requirement of Rule 23(a)(3). See Docket Item No. 44.

On November 1, 2013, Plaintiff filed a second motion for class certification, appointment of class representative, and appointment of class counsel, presently before the Court. See Docket Item No. 50. Mindful of the Court's June 10, 2013 order denying class certification, Plaintiff narrowed her class definition by seeking coverage of only Defendant's 100% Juice products. She alleges that Defendant's 100% Juice products contained packaging and labeling that were unlawful, false, or misleading. In addition, Plaintiff contends that because Defendant labels its 100% Juice products identically with respect to the "No Sugar Added" claim, the different flavors do not, at least for purposes of this motion, distinguish them as different products. In contrast to the class definition contained in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff's second motion seeks certification of the following putative class: "All persons in the state of California who, from June 14, 2008, until the date of notice, purchased Defendant's 100% Juice product labeled No Sugar Added.'" In addition, Plaintiff moves for an order appointing her as class representative and appointing her attorneys as counsel for the class.

Defendant filed its Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on January 3, 2014. There, Defendant limitd its arguments to the 100% Juice products that are the subject of Plaintiff's motion for class certification. See Docket Item No. 55.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

As described above, these motions overlap since Defendant moves for partial summary judgment on the same claims that form the basis of Plaintiff's class certification motion. Under these circumstances, Defendant's motion must be decided first because, if that motion is granted and summary judgment on the 100% Juice products claims is entered in favor of Defendant, the certification motion is rendered moot. Accordingly, the Court begins with the standard applied to motions for summary judgment.

A motion for summary judgment should be granted if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Addisu v. Fred Meyer, Inc., 198 F.3d 1130, 1134 (9th Cir. 2000). The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying the portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, or affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a triable issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party meets this initial burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and designate specific materials in the record to show that there is a genuinely disputed fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

However, the mere suggestion that facts are in controversy, as well as conclusory or speculative testimony in affidavits and moving papers, is not sufficient to defeat summary judgment. See Thornhill Publ'g Co. v. GTE Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 738 (9th Cir. 1979). Instead, the non-moving party must come forward with admissible evidence to satisfy the burden. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Feiner & Co., Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1990).

A genuine issue for trial exists if the non-moving party presents evidence from which a reasonable jury, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to that party, could resolve the material issue in his or her favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986); Barlow v. Ground, 943 F.2d 1132, 1134-36 (9th Cir. 1991). Conversely, summary judgment must be granted where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff argues that Defendant's 100% Juice labels violate California's Unfair Competition Law ("UCL"), false advertising laws, and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act ("CLRA") because the labels were deceptive since they contained the "No Sugar Added" messaging without the required disclaimer language.[1] Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 65-82. Because of Defendant's alleged false and misleading labeling practices, Plaintiff argues she relied on the misbranded labels and was deceived into purchasing Defendant's 100% Juice products. Id . As a result of Defendant's allegedly unlawful, fraudulent, and misleading labeling, Plaintiff ...


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