SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered to grant in part and deny in part a motion to dismiss and strike filed by Gel Spice Co. Inc. and Big Lots Stores Inc. over the allegedly high lead content in turmeric products.

The suit, brought by plaintiff Pamela Caudle, stems from turmeric powder manufactured by Gel Spice and distributed by Big Lots that allegedly contained high amounts of lead. The court's opinion was written by Judge Jeffrey S. White.

According to the court's July 21 order, in July 2016, Gel Spice recalled the product after a third-party test concluded there was high levels of lead. 

The plaintiff claims that the company broke its website’s promise of offering high-quality products and as a result she now claims punitive damages. 

The first amended complaint filed by Caudle listed three causes of action, including violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, breach of implied warranty of merchantability and unfair competition. The defendants quickly moved to dismiss the suit stating a lack of Article III standing and failure to state a claim.

Regarding the motion to strike, the court granted in part due to the plaintiff’s overbroad class definition but denied in part as it was determined she had adequately plead commonality, typicality and predominance requirements. 

Additionally, the court granted the defendant’s argument to dismiss the implied warranty claim against Big Lots but denied the same claim for Gel Spice.

In addition to the order, the court made a point of addressing the conduct of the defendants in the suit. The conclusion of the order states that counsel for the defendants did not argue the validity or merit of the plaintiff’s complaint but rather argued that the attorneys had misrepresented the law. 

The court determined the defendants' argument to be “at best unhelpful,” and that “accusations of dishonesty on the part of opposing counsel should be reserved for those instances where the record clearly supports the charge, and not used as a mere rhetorical flourish.” The court warned the defendants that the behavior would not be tolerated in the future.

Caudle will have an opportunity to amend her complaint around the granted motions.

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