Northern California Record

Monday, January 27, 2020

Some claims over hypoallergenic labeling on Whole Foods products allowed to advance


By Shanice Harris | Apr 11, 2019


SAN FRANCISCO – A supplier of Whole Foods' private-label products and others were granted partial dismissal of a suit that claimed they mislabeled household products as hypoallergenic.

On March 29, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California denied WFM Private Label LP, et al.'s motion to dismiss plaintiff Shosha Kellman's suit with respect to WFM Services and putative nationwide class claims, but granted the motion to dismiss her claims regarding WFM Distribution.

Plaintiff Shosha Kellman brought her fourth amended complaint against WFM Private Label, Whole Foods Market California, Whole Foods Market Services and Whole Foods Market Distribution over claims of breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment and cited alleged violations of the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition Law.

Whole Foods sells its own branded products in its stores as well as outside vendor items. Kellman alleged that the store was labeling some of its products “hypoallergenic” despite the items containing allergens. The four defendants named in the lawsuit are responsible for private-label products, California store operations, marketing and distribution.

WFM Services and WFM Distribution moved to dismiss the claims, citing lack of personal jurisdiction. WFM Services alleged it did not design the products or sell them in California through its website and WFM Distribution submitted a sworn declaration that it is not involved in distributing the products to Whole Foods stores.

The court disagreed with WFM Services, stating jurisdiction was satisfied. However, it said Kellman did not satisfy the specific-personal-jurisdiction test with WFM Distribution.

All of the defendants sought to dismiss the class claims.

“The defendants argue that the court should dismiss Ms. Kellman’s putative nationwide class claims because, so the defendants argue, California common law and statutory law differs from the law of other states…,” according to the ruling.

The court stated that the motion to dismiss the putative nationwide class claims was premature at this stage, but stated the defendants can raise the argument again at the class-certification stage.

Kellman has 14 days from the date of the ruling to amend her claim against WFM Distribution.

The order was signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler.

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