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Moore v. Trader Joe's Co.

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 24, 2019

LYNN MOORE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TRADER JOE'S COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS RE: DKT. NO. 33

          KANDIS A WESTMORE, United States Magistrate Judge.

         On January 18, 2019, Defendant Trader Joe's Company filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' first amended complaint.

         On May 16, 2019, the Court held a hearing, and, after careful consideration of the parties' arguments and the applicable legal authority, for the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion to dismiss without leave to amend, because any amendment would be futile.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 21, 2018, Plaintiffs Lynn Moore, Shanque King, and Jeffrey Akwei filed their First Amended Complaint in a putative class action. (First Am. Compl., “FAC, ” Dkt. No. 32.) Therein, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Trader Joe's Company (“Trader Joe's”) engaged in “false, misleading, and deceptive marketing and sale” of Trader Joe's Manuka Honey (the “Product”) by representing that the Product is composed “entirely” of “pure manuka honey” when the Product's manuka honey content has allegedly “been adulterated by the inclusion of cheaper honey.” (See FAC ¶¶ 9, 11, 37.)

         Plaintiffs claim that two of the Product's representations contributed to their alleged injuries: (1) the statement “100% New Zealand Manuka Honey” or “New Zealand Manuka Honey” on the Product's front label; and (2) the “ingredient statement, ” which lists “manuka honey” as the only ingredient. (FAC ¶¶ 5-6, 26-31, 35-36.) Plaintiffs allege that tests of Product samples purportedly purchased by Plaintiffs Moore and Akwei showed between 57.3% and 62.6% of the pollen in the tested honey was from the manuka flower, with the remainder from other floral sources. (FAC ¶¶ 39-41.) Plaintiffs allege that Trader Joe's sales and marketing practices for the Product violate consumer protection and similar laws of all fifty states and the District of Columbia. (FAC ¶ 14.) Plaintiffs contend that the state laws mirror federal law regulating food labeling deception and food adulteration. (FAC ¶ 15 (citing 21 U.S.C. §§ 342-343).) As a result, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant's honey is mislabeled and falsely advertised as pure Manuka honey when it should be labeled as a “Manuka-based honey blend.” (FAC ¶ 16.)

         On January 18, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss. (Def.'s Mot., Dkt. No. 33.) On February 14, 2019, Plaintiffs filed an opposition. (Pls.' Opp'n, Dkt. No. 36.) On March 1, 2019, Defendant filed a reply. (Def.'s Reply, Dkt. No. 39.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may file a motion to dismiss based on the failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001).

         In considering such a motion, a court must “accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, ” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (citation omitted), and may dismiss the case or a claim “only where there is no cognizable legal theory” or there is an absence of “sufficient factual matter to state a facially plausible claim to relief.” Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009); Navarro, 250 F.3d at 732) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         A claim is plausible on its face when a plaintiff “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). In other words, the facts alleged must demonstrate “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action” and “conclusory statements” are inadequate. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Epstein v. Wash. Energy Co., 83 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 1996) (“[C]onclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.”). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully . . . When a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (internal citations omitted).

         Generally, if the court grants a motion to dismiss, it should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend is made “unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).

         B. Request for Judicial Notice

         As a general rule, a district court may not consider any material beyond the pleadings in ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001). A district court may take notice of facts not subject to reasonable dispute that are “capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” Fed.R.Evid. 201(b); United States v. Bernal-Obeso, 989 F.2d 331, 333 (9th Cir. 1993). “[A] court may take judicial notice of ‘matters of public record, '” Lee, 250 F.3d at 689 (citing Mack v. S. Bay Beer Distrib., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986)), and may also consider “documents whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading” without converting a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) into a motion for summary judgment. Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 454 (9th Cir. 1994), overruled on other grounds by Galbraith v. Cnty. of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119 (9th Cir. 2002). The court need not accept as true allegations that contradict facts which may be judicially noticed. See Mullis v. United States Bankruptcy Ct., 828 F.2d 1385, 1388 (9th Cir. 1987).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Request for Judicial Notice

         As a preliminary matter, Defendant asks that the Court take judicial notice of three documents in support of their motion to dismiss. (Def.'s Req. for Judicial Not., “RJN, ” Dkt. No. 34.) The documents are purportedly true and correct copies of: 1) Webpage entitled “Grading System Explained” of the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (“UMF Grading System); 2) Webpage of Bees and Trees, available at https://www.beesandtrees.com/ (last accessed on January 18, 2019); and 3) webpage of the True Honey Company, dated March 30, 2017, and entitled "Why is manuka honey so expensive?" available at ...


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