United States District Court, S.D. California
CORY BRANNON, individually, and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
BARLEAN'S ORGANIC OILS, LLC, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 4]
HONORABLE BARRY TED MOSKWITZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 4 (“Def.'s Mot. for Summ.
J.”)), which Plaintiff opposes. For the reasons
discussed below, the Court DENIES the
filed suit against Defendant Barlean's Organic Oils, LLC
(“Barlean's”) for violations of California
business practices law and common law causes of action.
Plaintiff, a consumer, purchased dietary supplements
(“products”) manufactured by Barlean's. (ECF
No. 1 (“Pl.'s Compl.”), ¶ 1.)
Barlean's labeled and advertised its products with the
following statements: “Nature's Perfect Superfood,
” “Pathway to a better life, ” “Vegan
Superfood, ” and stated the products contain
“Antioxidant Power” and are “designed to
invigorate and nourish both your mind and body. Masterfully
formulated with Nature's most vitalizing plant-based
ingredients.” (Id.) The labels also claim that
the products are a “premium superfood created
to”: “Support cleansing of organs and tissues,
” “Super-Boost your health and energy, ”
“Help improve digestion, ” “Aid the
body's natural detoxification, ” and “Promote
a healthy immune system.” (Id.) These
statements are structure/function claims under the Dietary
Supplement Health and Education Act (“DSHEA”),
because they “describe the role of a nutrient or
dietary ingredient intended to affect the structure or
function in humans.” 21 U.S.C. § 343(r)(6)(A).
thrust of Plaintiff's argument is that Barlean's
advertising and labeling (the “representations”)
are false and misleading on two grounds. First, he claims the
representations violate the DSHEA because they are not
substantiated. (Pl.'s Compl., ¶ 2.) Second, he
argues the products contain lead beyond the limits set by
California's Proposition 65 (“Prop. 65”) and
that Barlean's failed to affix the necessary warning
label for products that exceed this maximum. (Id.)
Plaintiff's causes of action follow from the alleged
violations of the DSHEA and Prop. 65.
moved for summary judgment. (ECF No. 4 (“Def.'s
Mot. for Summ. J.”).) It submitted factual information
in support of what would otherwise be a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss, thus rendering it a Rule 56 motion for summary
judgment. (Id. at 2:4-7.) The motion is supported by
the declaration of John Puckett, Barlean's CEO, who
affirms that all products include the necessary Prop. 65
warning label and that the lead in the products is naturally
occurring. (ECF No. 4 (“Puckett Decl.”),
¶¶ 1, 4-5.) Plaintiff's opposition includes
information about the harmfulness of ingesting lead. (ECF No.
6 (“Spector Decl.”).)
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
judgment is appropriate under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure if the moving party demonstrates the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is
material when, under the governing substantive law, it could
affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Eat Right
Foods Ltd. V. Whole Foods Mkt., Inc., 880 F.3d 1109,
1118 (9th Cir. 2018). A dispute is genuine if a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of
establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party can
satisfy this burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence
that negates an essential element of the nonmoving
party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving
party failed to establish an essential element of the
nonmoving party's case on which the nonmoving party bears
the burden of proving at trial. Id. at 331.
"Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not
preclude a grant of summary judgment." T.W. Elec.
Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809
F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).
the moving party establishes the absence of genuine issues of
material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to
set forth facts showing that a genuine issue of disputed fact
remains. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 314. The nonmoving
party cannot oppose a properly supported summary judgment
motion by “rest[ing] on mere allegations or denials of
his pleadings.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.
When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must view
all inferences drawn from the underlying facts in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
has sued under five causes of action. Barlean's moves for
summary judgment on each of them.
Unfair and Unlawful Business Acts and Practices
first cause of action is for violation of California's
Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), which prohibits
unlawful and unfair business practices. Cal. Bus. &
Profs. Code §§ 17200, et seq. “An unfair
business practice is one that either ‘offends an
established public policy' or is ‘immoral,
unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially
injurious to consumers.” McDonald v. Coldwell
Banker, 543 F.3d 498, 506 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting
People v. Casa Blanca Convalescent Homes, Inc., 159
Cal.App.3d 509, 530 (1984)). “[V]irtually any state,
federal, or local law can serve as the predicate” for a
UCL claim. Friedman v. AARP, Inc., 855 F.3d 1047,
1052 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting People ex rel. Lockyer v.
Fremont Life Ins. Co., 104 Cal.App.4th 508 (2002)). The
predicate law need not provide a private cause of action
because UCL “‘borrows' violations of other
laws and treats them as unlawful practices, ” which
become “independently ...