September 20, 2013

There's a lawsuit for that

By Anastasia P. Boden Attorney

For most things, there’s an app.  For everything else, there’s a lawsuit.

Just look at a new article describing the amount of frivolous litigation happening in the Nothern District of California, or the Food Court, which is particularly friendly to food mislabeling lawsuits.  Often these suits are brought by repeat named plaintiffs who, along with the attorneys, reap the benefits—while the class is left with coupons, or minimal refunds.  The claims are often the same, with only the named defendant changing from complaint to complaint.  A favorite allegation is that a product’s label calling the item “all natural” is misleading.  But what qualifies as “natural” is unclear.  Last year when California tried to define the term under the failed Prop. 37, it crafted such a narrow definition that it deemed apple juice, roasted almonds, and frozen broccoli not natural.  Indeed, any product that was “cann[ed], smok[ed],press[ed], cook[ed], fr[ozen], dehydrat[ed], ferment[ed] or mill[ed]” was considered “unnatural.”  Obviously there is room for differing opinions on what the term means.

The article quotes a law school professor who sums up the problem:

“Socially, you could say making the companies correctly label supports (these lawsuits),” said Byron Stier, a Southwestern Law School professor. “The question is whether there is a significant wrong that is worth all the attention and  fees and court time.”

This is a question worth considering given that California is now considered the worst place for civil justice in the nation.

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