United States District Court, S.D. California
HAROLD BROWER and MELINDA FERGUSON, on behalf of themselves, all others similarly situated, and the general public, Plaintiffs,
CAMPBELL SOUP COMPANY, Defendant.
ORDER: (1) GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF NO. 17);
(2) DENYING MOTION FOR SANCTIONS (ECF NO. 18); (3) DENYING
CROSS-MOTION FOR SANCTIONS (ECF NO. 20)
T. Benitez, United States District Judge
Harold Brower and Melinda Ferguson (collectively,
“Plaintiffs”) allege that Defendant Campbell Soup
Company's (“Defendant” or “Campbell
Soup”) Chunky Healthy Request Grilled Chicken &
Sausage Gumbo is falsely and misleadingly labeled and
advertised as healthy when, in fact, it contains artificial
trans fat, a substance harmful to human health. (Am. Compl.,
ECF No. 16). Now before the Court are three motions: (1)
Defendant Campbell Soup's Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiffs' First Amended Consolidated Class Action
Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 17); (2) Campbell Soup's
Motion for Sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11
against Jack Fitzgerald and the Law Office of Jack
Fitzgerald, PC (ECF No. 18); and (3) Plaintiffs'
Cross-Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions against Campbell Soup,
Dale Giali, and Kirstin Mazzeo (ECF No. 20). Campbell
Soup's primary argument in its motion to dismiss is that
Plaintiffs' claims are preempted by federal law. The Rule
11 motions arise from Defendant's contention that
Plaintiffs' claims are preempted.
reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS the motion to
dismiss because Plaintiffs' claims are expressly
preempted by federal law. The Court DENIES both motions for
Rule 11 sanctions.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND 
Soup manufactures, markets, and sells to consumers Healthy
Request Chunky Grilled Chicken & Sausage Gumbo soup (the
“Product” or “Healthy Request
Gumbo”). (Am. Compl. ¶ 1). The Product contains an
artificial trans fat in the form of partially hydrogenated
soybean oil. (Id.)
consumption of artificial trans fat substantially harms
health, and scientific studies demonstrate that there is no
threshold intake level of artificial trans fat that does not
increase the risk of heart disease. (Id.
¶¶ 2, 14-34). Artificial trans fat consumption is
also linked to increased risk of diabetes, cancer, and
Alzheimer's disease. (Id. ¶¶ 2,
26-30). Due to these health risks, in June 2015, the Food and
Drug Administration (“FDA”) announced that
partially hydrogenated oils (“PHOs”), the primary
dietary source of industrially-produced trans fats, are no
longer generally recognized as safe (“GRAS”) for
use in human food. (Id. ¶ 34 (citing Final
Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils, 80 Fed.
Reg. 34650 (June 17, 2015))). The FDA gave the food industry
three years to remove PHOs from processed foods or receive
approval for PHO use. (Id.)
the health risks associated with trans fats, Campbell Soup
markets Healthy Request Gumbo as a healthy product. (See
Id. ¶¶ 35-45, 50-52). The Product's
packaging includes the following labels: (1) “Healthy
Request;” (2) “Heart Healthy;” (3)
“COOKED WITH CARE;” (4) “Made with Lean
Chicken Meat;” (5) American Heart Association
(“AHA”) “CERTIFIED” emblem and
“Meets Criteria for Heart-Healthy Food;” and (6)
vignettes of vegetables and grains. (Id. ¶ 50).
The labeling omits information about the presence of trans
fats and their health effects. (Id. ¶ 51). The
Product's packaging also fails to disclose that Campbell
Soup paid for the AHA certification emblem. (Id.
¶¶ 42-43, 54). Plaintiffs contend that the
Product's labels, taken individually and as a whole, are
false and misleading because they suggest that the Product is
healthy when, in fact, the presence of trans fats makes it
detrimental to health. (Id. ¶¶ 50, 52).
purchased and consumed Healthy Request Gumbo in reliance on
the health and wellness claims conveyed through the
Product's labeling. (Id. ¶¶ 59-63).
They have been injured by spending money on a product that
was worth less than what Plaintiffs paid for it.
(Id. ¶ 68). Had Plaintiffs known about the
presence and detrimental health effects of artificial trans
fat in Healthy Request Gumbo, Plaintiffs would not have
purchased the Product or would not have purchased as much of
it. (Id. ¶¶ 67, 69-71). Plaintiffs have
also been injured by their increased risk of heart disease
and other morbidity as a result of consuming Healthy Request
Gumbo. (Id. ¶ 62).
bring a complaint alleging violations of California's
Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), False Advertising
Law (“FAL”), and Consumer Legal Remedies Act
(“CLRAâ), and breaches of express warranties and the
implied warranty of merchantability under California's
DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) must be granted where the pleadings fail to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must “accept as true
facts alleged and draw inferences from them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Stacy v. Rederite Otto
Danielsen, 609 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2010). A
plaintiff must not merely allege conceivably unlawful conduct
but must allege “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A
claim is facially plausible ‘when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.'” Zixiang Li v. Kerry, 710 F.3d
995, 999 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
Request for Judicial Notice
asks the Court to take judicial notice of a copy of the
packaging label for Healthy Request Gumbo in use during the
class period. (See Request for Judicial Notice
(“RJN”) Ex. A). Federal Rule of Evidence 201
authorizes a court to take judicial notice of facts
“not subject to reasonable dispute because [they] . . .
can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose
accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” Fed.R.Evid.
201(b). A court may take judicial notice of documents
“whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose
authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically
attached to the plaintiff's pleading.” Knievel
v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005). Here,
Plaintiffs' entire case theory depends on the labels on
Healthy Request Gumbo, to ...