Missouri SC rejects Coca-Cola class action

Chris Rizo Apr. 15, 2008, 3:25pm

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline)--The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected class action certification for a lawsuit claiming consumers were deceived about the sweeteners used in some Coke products.

The high court rejected the class action lawsuit that alleged the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company used deceptive marketing practices that misled consumers into believing that fountain Diet Coke had the same formula as bottled Diet Coke.

The lawsuit specifically contended that some consumers would not have bought the fountain version of Diet Coke if they had known it contained the sweeteners saccharin and aspartame because bottled Diet Coke is sweetened exclusively with aspartame.

The lawsuit was approved as a class action by Jackson County Judge W. Stephen Nixon - a decision that was overturned Tuesday in the Supreme Court's unanimous decision.

The lawsuit sought to include as defendants anyone aside from Coca-Cola employees who bought Diet Coke in Missouri after March 24, 1999.

In a decision written by Judge William Ray Price Jr., the court called the case "impermissibly overbroad and indefinite," in part because the class action lawsuit could have covered an indefinite number of people.

The lawsuit against Coca-Cola was originally brought by Diana Pennington in March 2004.

"Pennington contends that, if Coca-Cola divulged its use of saccharin, she and many other consumers would not have purchased fountain Diet Coke," Price wrote for the court.

"However, Pennington's proposed class undoubtedly includes an extremely large number of uninjured class members, that is, those who did not care if the Diet Coke they purchased contained saccharin," the ruling said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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