United States District Court, E.D. California
JOANN MARTINELLI, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
JOHNSON & JOHNSON and McNEIL NUTRITIONALS, LLC, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MORRISON C. ENGLAND UNITED STATES DISTRICTJUDGE
this class action, Plaintiff Joann Martinelli
(“Plaintiff”), individually and on behalf of
others similarly situated, seeks relief from Defendants
Johnson & Johnson and McNeil Nutritionals, LLC
(collectively “Defendants”) arising from the
labeling and sale of Benecol Regular and Light Spreads
(“Benecol Spreads”). Plaintiff alleges eight
causes of action: (1) breach of express warranty, (2) breach
of implied warranty of merchantability, (3) unjust
enrichment, (4) violation of California's Consumers Legal
Remedies Act, (5) violation of California's Unfair
Competition Law, (6) violation of California's False
Advertising Law, (7) negligent misrepresentation, and (8)
fraud. First Am. Compl. (“FAC”), ECF No. 9.
before the court are two motions: Defendants' Motion to
Deny Nationwide Class Certification or in the alternative, to
Strike Nationwide Class Allegations (“Defendants'
Motion”) (ECF No. 45), and Plaintiff's Motion for
Leave to File Second Amended Class Action Complaint
(“Plaintiff's Motion”) (ECF No. 46). Both
parties filed timely oppositions and replies to each motion.
ECF Nos. 47, 48, 52, 54. For the reasons set forth below,
Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED and Defendants' Motion
manufactured, marketed, and sold their Benecol Spreads
throughout California and other states. The front labels
provide that the product has “no trans fats” and
the back labels state the product has “no trans fatty
acids.” Artificial trans fats are a product of a
process called partial hydrogenation and are integral to
partially hydrogenated oils. Plaintiff cites to a 2015 FDA
report concluding that hydrogenated oils may not be safe for
human consumption, and other studies concluding that trans
fats increase the risk of coronary heart disease and other
adverse health effects.
contends she purchased Benecol Spreads for personal use in
California after she reviewed the products' labels and
believed them to be true. Plaintiff claims the
representations on the labels led her to believe the Benecol
Spreads contained neither trans fats nor trans fatty acids,
and that the spreads were therefore safe for human
consumption. Plaintiff alleges she relied on these
representations and warranties in deciding to buy the Benecol
Spreads, and asserts she would not have purchased the spreads
if she knew they contained trans fats or trans fatty acids.
Plaintiff further alleges she paid a premium for the Benecol
Spreads and understood the purchase to be a transaction
between herself and Defendants.
to Plaintiff, the Benecol Spreads necessarily contain trans
fats because they contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil.
Thus, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants' labels on the
Benecol Spreads are false and misleading. Finally, Plaintiff
alleges the incorrect labels led consumers to distinguish
Benecol Spreads from other similar products, and allowed
Defendants to charge a premium for their products.
to her FAC, Plaintiff seeks to represent both a nationwide
class and a California subclass of individuals who purchased
Benecol Spreads for personal use. This Court issued a
Pretrial Scheduling Order (“PTSO”) on March 7,
2016. ECF No. 25. That order provides: “No joinder of
parties or amendments to pleadings is permitted without leave
of court, good cause having been shown.” Id.
at 1. While discovery was ongoing, Defendants filed the
present Motion to Deny Class Certification. Plaintiff
thereafter sought leave to file a Second Amended Complaint
(“SAC”) proposing to add a representative
plaintiff from New York, a New York subclass, and two claims
arising under New York law.
may certify a class if a plaintiff demonstrates that all of
the prerequisites of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
23(a) have been met, and that at least one of
the requirements of Rule 23(b) has been met. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 23; Valentino v. Carter-Wallace, Inc.,
97 F.3d 1227, 1234 (9th Cir. 1996). Before certifying a
class, the trial court must conduct a “rigorous
analysis” to determine whether the party seeking
certification has met the prerequisites of Rule 23.
Valentino, 97 F.3d at 1233. While the trial court
has broad discretion to certify a class, its discretion must
be exercised within the framework of Rule 23. Zinser v.
Accufix Research Inst., Inc., 253 F.3d 1180, 1186 (9th
23(a) provides four prerequisites that must be satisfied for
class must be so numerous that joinder of all members is
impracticable, (2) questions of law or fact exist that are
common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of the
representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses
of the class, and
representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the
interests of the class. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a). Rule 23(b)
requires a plaintiff to establish one of the following: (1)
that there is a risk of substantial prejudice from separate
actions; (2) that declaratory or injunctive relief
benefitting the class as a whole would be appropriate; or (3)
that common questions of law or fact ...