LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - A class action lawsuit has been filed against Heinz after consumers claim it violated state and federal laws by advertising its white vinegar as "all natural" when it was not.
The products, the suit contents, are actually made with genetically modified corn and are not natural at all.
H.J. Heinz Company markets, advertises and distributes Heinz Distilled White Vinegar, which it prominently advertises as "all natural," according to a complaint filed March 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Debbie Banafsheha claims Heinz violated California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act and California's Unfair Competition Law.
Heinz deceptively labels its products as "all natural" and by consistently labeling of the products as "all natural," the defendant ensured that all consumers purchasing the products would be exposed to its "all natural" claim, according to the suit.
Banafsheha claims food derived from genetically modified organisms is not natural and Heinz's representations were false, deceptive, misleading and unfair to consumers, who were injured in fact by purchasing products that the defendants had claimed were "all natural."
The defendant's conduct is unfair in that it offends established public policy and/or is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous and/or substantially injurious to the plaintiff and class members.
"The harm to plaintiff and class members arising from defendant's conduct outweighs any legitimate benefit defendant derived from the conduct," the complaint states. "Defendant's conduct undermines and violates the stated spirit and policies underlying the Consumers Legal Remedies Act and the False Advertising Law..."
Banafsheha claims the defendant's actions and practices constitute "fraudulent" business practices in violation of the UCL because, among other things, they are likely to deceive reasonable consumers.
The plaintiff relied on the defendant's representations and omissions, and, as a direct and proximate result of the defendant's violations, the plaintiff suffered injury in fact and lost money because she purchased the products and paid the price she paid believing them to be all natural when they were not.
Banafsheha and each member of the class formed a contract with the defendant at the time the plaintiff and the other members of the class purchased one or more of the products.
"The terms of that contract include the promises and affirmations of fact made by defendant on the packaging of the products..." the complaint states. "The products' packaging constitutes express warranties, became part of the basis of the bargain, and are part of a standardized contract between plaintiff and the members of the class on the one hand, and defendant on the other."
Banafsheha claims the defendant breached the terms of its contract, including the express warranties, with the plaintiff and the class by not providing the product that could provide the benefits promised.
As a result of Heinz's breach of its contract, the plaintiff and the class have been damaged in the amount of the purchase price of any and all of the products they purchased, according to the suit.
Banafsheha is seeking for this action to be certified as a proper class action, certifying the class as requested and designating her as class representative and her counsel as class counsel; and actual and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. She is being represented by Tina Wolfson, Robert Ahdoot, Theodore W. Maya and Bradley K. King of Ahdoot & Wolfson.
The case has been assigned to District Judge John F. Walter.
U.S. District Court for the Central District of California case number: 2:14-cv-02023