Court denies Tradewinds' second motion to dismiss case over 'all natural' label

By S. Laney Griffo | Sep 21, 2017

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California Philip S. Gutierrez has denied an iced tea maker’s motion to dismiss a first amended consolidated complaint. 

The court ruled Sept. 5.

In 2016, Angerlia Martin filed a case against Tradewinds Beverage Co. alleging that the drinks the company claimed were “all natural” actually contained an artificial ingredient, a caramel coloring.

On Feb. 3, a separate case against Tradewinds was filed by Christopher Rhinesmith and in May, Martin and Rhinesmith’s cases were consolidated. They then filed this amended complaint.

In the recent motion to dismiss, Tradewinds argued the claims are preempted by federal law and the California safe harbor doctrine. The plaintiffs also haven’t plausibly alleged a misleading statement and Tradewinds is protected by the First Amendment, the company argued.

According to the court order to deny the motion to dismiss, Tradewinds argued that complaint should be subject to express-preemption because the plaintiffs were asking for the label to be changed. The court responded in the order that “no such requirements have been sought.”

In response to the request that the complaint is conflict-preempted, the order said the state law and the federal law has the same requirements so the state law is not preempted. The order also denied the request that the complaint if impliedly preempted based on precedent set by other district courts.

According to the order, Tradewinds also said the complaint should be field-preempted because coloring is the federal government’s field. The order denied this request because the issue was not whether there was an added coloring but that the label said “all natural.”

Tradewinds also claimed the complaint should be dismissed under the California safe harbor doctrine because color additives are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The order denied this claim, stating again the complaint was about the mislabeling and not the ingredient itself.

The order also states plaintiffs did in fact plausibly allege a misleading statement and therefore, denied that part of Tradewinds’ motion.

Finally, the court denied that Tradewinds was protected by the First Amendment because misleading statements are not protected.

“The protections afforded commercial speech by the First Amendment are not unlimited,” the order stated.

The complaint will be allowed to continue as is.

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