Food for Thought: Food Industry Decisions with Bite

Food for Thought: Starbucks Defeats Icy Class Action

Class Actions   |   Litigation and Trials   |   Mass Tort and Product Liability   |   March 27, 2018
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Forouzesh v. Starbucks Corp., 714 F. App’x 776 (9th Cir. 2018)

On March 12, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a proposed class action against Starbucks. The lead plaintiff alleged that Starbucks’s method of preparing its iced beverages deceives its customers by misrepresenting the amount of liquid a customer receives when he or she orders an iced drink. The plaintiff brought claims of breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, fraud, and violations of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, and False Advertising Law.

The Ninth Circuit held that the plaintiff’s claims failed because a "reasonable consumer" would not think that "a 12-ounce ‘iced’ drink … contains 12 ounces of coffee or tea and no ice." Moreover, the plaintiff’s fraud claims failed because he did not show that consumers justifiably relied on Starbucks’s representation and "justifiable reliance" is a required element of fraud. Last, the claim for breach of express warranty failed because the plaintiff did not allege that Starbucks ever promised that its iced drinks contained a specific amount of liquid "as distinct from a total amount of liquid and ice."

This decision comes on the heels of another proposed class action that Starbucks defeated in January. There, a group of consumers alleged Starbucks was cheating its customers by underfilling select drinks such as lattes. The court held that because the plaintiffs conceded that milk foam was a component of these drinks, Starbucks was not underfilling the drinks.

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