Second Circuit

Companies in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical, and other industries continue to face litigation regarding their products’ labeling, including as to whether certain representations on labels are deceptive or misleading.  In the Second Circuit and elsewhere, these lawsuits tend to turn on what an objective “reasonable consumer” would understand the representation at issue to mean, and whether that “reasonable consumer” would likely be misled under the circumstances.  In Bustamante v. KIND, LLC, 2024 WL 1917155 (2d Cir, May 2, 2024), the Second Circuit confirmed how important expert testimony can be to that question, and how efforts to exclude expert testimony can ultimately be the difference between winning and losing. Continue Reading A Closer Look: The Importance of Expert Testimony for “Reasonable Consumer” Claims

Last week, a divided Second Circuit panel affirmed a district court ruling denying a motion to compel arbitration of a putative class action seeking classwide equitable remedies under ERISA for alleged mismanagement of an employee stock ownership plan.  The Second Circuit found the defined contribution plan’s mandatory arbitration clause unenforceable because it limited plaintiff’s ability to assert a claim that would result in any relief other than individual relief, and specifically prevented him from pursuing the plan-wide remedy authorized by ERISA Section 502(a)(2).  The Court’s decision extends the “effective vindication exception” and raises questions about the extent to which plans can force individual arbitration of ERISA claims that apply to an entire plan.  

In Cedeno v. Sasson, 2024 WL 1895053 (2d Cir. May 1, 2024), the plaintiff asserted claims under ERISA Sections 502(a)(2) and 409(a), alleging that defendants breached fiduciary duties by purchasing stock shares for purportedly more than fair market value, saddling the Plan with tens of millions of dollars of debt and decreasing its value. Continue Reading Second Circuit Blocks Use of Arbitration Clause to Prevent Class Action ERISA Claims

On April 15, the U.S. Supreme Court declined a request by Visa and Mastercard to review a D.C. Circuit decision that appeared to add to a circuit split about how lower courts are to determine whether common issues predominate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). 

The case, Visa Inc. v. Nat’l ATM Council, Inc., Case No. 23-814, was part of a long-running dispute between the card companies and ATM operators about ATM fees.  In July, the D.C. Circuit upheld the certification of three different Plaintiff classes over the card companies’ argument that the district court had failed to perform a “rigorous analysis” about whether class-wide issues predominated.  Nat’l ATM Council, Inc. v. Visa Inc., 2023 WL 4743013 (D.C. Cir. 2023).  Although it noted that the district court’s analysis was “notably terse,” the D.C. Circuit found no error in the lower court’s holding that Plaintiffs need only demonstrate a “colorable” method of proving class-wide injury and that the Plaintiffs’ evidence satisfied that test.  Rejecting the card companies’ argument that Plaintiffs’ class-wide injury methodology failed to weed out uninjured class members, the court observed that “Defendants’ contention that their model showing unharmed members is more accurate and credible than Plaintiffs’ different models showing that all members were harmed is … precisely the kind of material factual dispute” that should be resolved at the merits, not class certification, stage.  Id. at *11.    Continue Reading Supreme Court Declines to Wade into Class Certification “Predominance” Issue

A court in the Southern District of New York recently dismissed a lawsuit alleging that an “All Natural” representation on the front label of defendant’s beverage products was false and misleading because the products contained synthetic citric acid and used vegetable and fruit juice concentrates for color.  Valencia v. Snapple Beverage Corp., 2024 WL 1158476 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2024).Continue Reading SDNY Court Dismisses False Advertising Lawsuit Alleging “All Natural” is Misleading Based on Alleged Use of Synthetic Citric Acid

In a short, unanimous opinion on April 12, 2024, the Supreme Court shut the door on “pure omission” claims under Rule 10b–5 and made clear that the Rule is limited to claims based on false or misleading statements.

The case, Macquarie Infrastructure Corp. v. Moab Partners, L.P., concerns alleged omissions in Defendant Macquarie’s SEC filings related to its subsidiary’s operation of bulk liquid storage terminals.  In 2016, the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization issued a regulation limiting this subsidiary’s ability to store high-sulfur fuel oil, its single largest product. Though the regulation was set to take effect in 2020, Macquarie did not discuss the regulation in its public filings.Continue Reading Supreme Court rejects pure omission claims under SEC Rule 10b–5

A court in the Southern District of New York recently denied plaintiffs’ motion for class certification on adequacy grounds in a suit challenging the labeling of “Maximum Strength” Robitussin cough syrup.  See Woodhams v. GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Holdings (US) LLC (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 21, 2024).Continue Reading SDNY Court Denies Class Certification in Suit Challenging Robitussin “Max Strength” Labels

The Southern District Court of New York recently denied a motion to dismiss a false advertising lawsuit against a water bottle company, holding that a reasonable consumer could be misled by the company’s “carbon neutral” labeling.Continue Reading New York Federal Court Denies Motion to Dismiss False Advertising Suit Based on “Carbon Neutral” Claims

Companies implementing arbitration provisions should ensure that they adequately inform customers about the provision and their options for opting out.  The Second Circuit recently reaffirmed the importance of this exercise in Lipsett v. Popular Bank, 2024WL 111247 (2nd Cir. Jan. 10, 2024), finding a bank’s arbitration provision unenforceable over a decade after it was first implemented.Continue Reading Second Circuit Identifies Pitfalls to Avoid When Implementing Arbitration Provisions

On November 3, the Second Circuit reversed a lower court decision denying a motion to compel arbitration in a putative class action against Klarna.  See Edmundson v. Klarna, Inc., 85 F.4th 695 (2d Cir. 2023).  The decision offers guidance (and support) for companies looking to enforce similar “click-wrap” agreements with mandatory arbitration provisions.Continue Reading A Closer Look: Second Circuit Steps In to Reverse Decision Refusing To Enforce “Click-Wrap” Mandatory Arbitration Agreement

The Second Circuit recently revived a putative class action asserting false advertising and breach-of-warranty claims over “Reef Friendly*” sunscreen, providing another cautionary tale of how claims involving potentially ambiguous marketing language can survive a motion to dismiss even when clarifying language appears elsewhere on the product package.

In Richardson v. Edgewell, plaintiff challenged the