Hershey says class action lawyers recruited plaintiffs through a website; Fight over subpoena ensues

By Gabriel Neves | Mar 14, 2019

SAN DIEGO (Legal Newsline) – Chocolate maker Hershey's, who was sued by some customers regarding alleged artificial flavoring in its Brookside dark chocolate products and has moved to dismiss the case, has also issued a subpoena to the plaintiffs' lawyers. 

The company filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Howard Clark, Todd Hall and Angela Pirrone in the U.S. District Court for Northern District of California in October. The subpoena, which plaintiffs lawyers are fighting, was issued Jan. 23.

Among the arguments for the dismissal of the case, Hershey's alleged that the attorney representing Clark, Hall and Pirrone "recruited" people to act as plaintiffs.

"Plaintiffs’ lawyer recruits people to serve as plaintiffs in food labeling cases through a website called Class Action Rebates, www.classactionrebates.com. The website promises that users will be able to earn cash or refunds on class settlements. When an individual signs up for notices, lawyers send emails seeking to recruit purported representatives to bring class action lawsuits," the Dec. 5 motion said.

In addition to the plaintiff recruitment, the company also alleged that use of malic acid in the products, which the plaintiffs allege is an artificial flavoring ingredient, was actually, per the motion, to "standardize the pH so the pectin-juice center can properly set."

Hershey's claimed that the plaintiffs suffered no injuries when purchasing the product.

In regards to the law firm that represents the plaintiffs and the allegations of recruitment, Hershey's attorneys have subpoenaed the Law Offices of Ronald A. Marron PLLC of San Diego to respond to the allegations. It is seeking documents and communication relating to classactionrebates.com and other items.

The firm filed a motion to quash the subpoena in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on Feb. 21. It also stated that "Defendant did not serve the subpoena in accordance" with the procedures stated in the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(a)(4), which require that, "if the subpoena commands the production of documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things or the inspection of premises before trial, then before it is served on the person to whom it is directed, a notice and a copy of the subpoena must be served on each party.”

"The Marron firm’s documents are not the primary aim of defendant’s subpoena. The primary aim is to harass, burden, and smear active litigation counsel for plaintiffs Howard Clark, Todd Hall and Angela Pirrone, who are locked into a class action lawsuit with defendant," the motion to quash states. 

"Defendant have (sic) made no secret of the fact that their main goal is to taint a law firm that has had the temerity to stand up for the plaintiffs and proposed class members. Defendant’s subpoena crosses a line."

U.S. District Court for Northern District of California case numbers 3:18-cv-06113-WHA and 3:19-cv-00356-LAB-MDD

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