Last week, a California district court dismissed a putative class action brought by serial filer Spencer Sheehan against Icelandic Provisions, Inc., the maker of an eponymous Skyr (Icelandic-style yogurt) product. The plaintiff, bringing a case captioned Steinberg v. Icelandic Provisions, Inc., No. 21-cv-5568 (N.D. Cal.), alleged that Icelandic Provisions misleads consumers into believing that its product is made in Iceland when it is actually made in New York. She pointed to the front label featuring the “Icelandic Provisions” brand name, the words “Traditional Icelandic Skyr” at the top, and a cartoon countryside with a snow-covered backdrop.
Icelandic Provisions moved to dismiss, arguing that these packaging elements relate to the characteristics of the product rather than indicating where the product is made, and pointing to a back-label explicit disclosure that the product is “Proudly made in Batavia, NY.” In response, the plaintiff urged the court to ignore this statement because it appeared only on the back label. Icelandic Provisions argued that back-label statements are properly considered, particularly given the absence of any actual misrepresentation on the front label.
The Steinberg court agreed with Icelandic Provisions. Rejecting the plaintiff’s effort to rely upon Mantikas v. Kellogg Co., 910 F.3d 633 (2d Cir. 2018), the court observed that “courts in the Second Circuit have declined to extend Mantikas’s holding to situations where the front label ‘makes no explicit [false] statements’ or where the front label makes ‘ambiguous’ statements.” Steinberg therefore was not governed by Mantikas: “[i]n this case, there are no explicit statements on the Product’s front label about the place of manufacture, and therefore a reasonable consumer can be expected to consult the back label.” The court accordingly dismissed the mislabeling claims.
This decision reinforces the common sense principle that a “reasonable” consumer should not be able to allege deception while turning a blind eye to disclosures that would disabuse him or her of their mistaken belief. Covington represented Icelandic Provisions in this case.