Consumer Product Class Action Blocked With Refund Check for $95
Beverage manufacturers like Supple LLC typically sell millions of cans and bottles to millions of consumers every year. All it would take is one unhappy but highly motivated customer to put the company out of business. When the plaintiff, a purchaser of a single shipment of Supple beverages, tried to form a class action, Supple turned to Manatt; we stopped this class formation at the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. Appellate courts rarely review class certifications, so the decision greatly reduced the client’s time investment and litigation expenses in comparison with having the case proceed through the system.
Supple is a nutritional drink. Infomercials are one of many ways Supple successfully markets its product. Manatt’s goal was to keep the product itself out of the litigation and focus solely on contested marketing claims.
After the district court granted class certification, Manatt petitioned the Ninth Circuit to remove all Supple purchasers from the class. We argued that every purchaser would have had to see a uniform message with claims that could be presented in court. Since many consumers are satisfied with the product, a drink that offers benefits beyond the contested claim, there was reasonable cause to limit claimants to those who saw the infomercial.
Next, Manatt dissected the 30-minute script word for word to differentiate what the ad said from what the plaintiff thought it did. The key ingredient in Supple is glucosamine, a naturally occurring chemical within the body that maintains cartilage health and lessens the symptoms of joint pain. The plaintiff claimed the ads said Supple was “clinically proven to treat arthritis.” Manatt went through every word and visual within the script to prove these words were never said, nor were they implied. All references to “clinically proven” within the script were related solely to glucosamine, one of many ingredients in Supple.
Next, we argued it would be impossible to prove which infomercial viewers were exposed to the same messages that confused the plaintiff, since people tend to tune into and out of infomercials versus watching a single airing all the way through. Finally, we documented that Supple had a system in place to handle consumer complaints and issue refunds, two options the client never pursued. Therefore, Manatt removed the plaintiff from the potential class and reduced her total potential damages to the money she spent on the product. This case was ultimately resolved with a refund check for $95.
Class Action Litigation
Consumer Goods & Services