Berry Deceptive Claims, Dunkin’ Donuts Customer Claims

Advertising Law

A plaintiff’s false advertising suit alleging he was deceived about the use of blueberries in Dunkin’ Donuts products will move forward after an Illinois federal court judge agreed that a reasonable consumer could have been confused about the claims.

Bartosz Grabowski purchased a blueberry glazed donut from his local Dunkin’ Donuts, believing that it contained real blueberries. He sued when he learned that several of the chain’s products contain no actual blueberries despite being labeled with the word “blueberry” and that some even contained fake blueberries, made in the same color and shape as real blueberries.

Dunkin’ Donuts moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that a reasonable consumer would assume the word “blueberry” only meant “blueberry flavored.” U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan reached the opposite conclusion.

“Based on the pleadings, a reasonable consumer could in fact conclude that a product identified with the word ‘blueberry’ contained blueberries,” the court wrote. “Contrary to Dunkin’s arguments, common sense does not dictate that a reasonable consumer would conclude under all circumstances only that the use of the term ‘blueberry’ in the product name meant that the product was a blueberry flavored product. The pleadings allege that Dunkin itself uses the word ‘blueberry’ to indicate to consumers that some of its products contain actual blueberries.”

Helping the plaintiff’s claim: his allegations that the donut in question contained fake blueberries made in the same color and shape as real blueberries. “In addition, Grabowski alleges that products that do contain real blueberries are sold side by side with products that contain fake blueberries, which could further add to consumer confusion,” the court said. “Such allegations add further detail to support the alleged deception by Dunkin.”

The defendant’s reliance upon its website, which contains additional information about its products, was premature and beyond the pleadings, Judge Der-Yeghiayan added.

Grabowski’s claims for fraud, unjust enrichment and intentional misrepresentation also survived, as the court found the plaintiff alleged facts to make the claims plausible. The court did dismiss the plaintiff’s claim for injunctive relief, however, as there was no indication of a threat of future harm since Grabowski now knows the blueberry glazed donut does not contain real blueberries.

To read the opinion in Grabowski v. Dunkin’ Brands, Inc., click here.

Why it matters: The court found that a reasonable consumer would believe the use of the word “blueberry” meant that actual blueberries—and not just blueberry flavor—were used in the defendant’s products, particularly in light of the allegation that Dunkin’ Donuts used fake blueberries that resembled the real fruit.