LITIGATION UPDATES – MARCH 2015

"No Sugar Added" - Just Fruit Juice

A California federal court has granted a partial motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging that Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. (“Ocean Spray”) mislabels its juice as “No Sugar Added,” despite the fact that the company adds fruit juice to its product from concentrate.  In Major v. Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., the plaintiff argued that by adding the concentrate and labeling products as “No Sugar Added,” Ocean Spray violated California law, which prohibits the use of the phrase “No Sugar Added” on food containing added sugars, such as jam, jelly, or concentrated fruit juice.  In response, Ocean Spray argued that the plaintiff did not rely on the “No Sugar Added” label when purchasing products.  Ocean Spray also argued that the plaintiff’s interpretation of the phrase “No Sugar Added” comported with Ocean Spray’s practice in adding fruit juice from concentrate to its product, which contains the same amount of sugar that would have existed naturally in the fruit.  The court agreed with Ocean Spray and granted Ocean Spray’s motion to dismiss.

Employees v. Independent Contractors

In class action lawsuits filed against both Uber and Lyft by drivers who work for the companies, the federal district courts in both cases denied motions for summary judgment filed by the companies.  A jury will now have to decide in each case whether the plaintiff drivers are employees or independent contractors.  These cases will have implications for Uber, Lyft, and other companies that do not take precautions to properly structure their independent contractor relationships. The facts of both cases are similar.  In both Cotter v. Lyft, Inc. and O’Connor v. Uber Technologies, Inc., the plaintiffs are drivers for the companies who make themselves available for work whenever they want and have the ability to accept or reject riders.  However, both companies expressly reserve the right to terminate the drivers for any reason.  In analyzing the motions for summary judgment filed by Uber and Lyft, the judges in both cases noted that the principal test of an employment relationship is whether the person to whom service is rendered has the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired.  Determining that it could not be established as a matter of law that Uber and Lyft drivers were not in an employment relationship with the companies, the courts denied the companies’ motions for summary judgment.

Is Your Flooring Making You Sick?

Following a story on 60 Minutes, Lumber Liquidators has been targeted by numerous proposed class action lawsuits.  These lawsuits all relate to Lumber Liquidators’ sale of laminate flooring in California, as well as other states, that the plaintiffs allege emit levels of formaldehyde in excess of the levels permitted by California law.  The lawsuits allege that Lumber Liquidators knew or should have known that the laminate flooring, which was manufactured in China, was in violation of California law.  Earlier this month, a California attorney requested that 10 proposed class action lawsuits filed by consumers against Lumber Liquidators, all relating to laminate flooring, be consolidated and transferred to the District Court in Northern California.  This request is currently pending before the United States Judicial Panel on Multi-district Litigation.

 

 

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