Bottler defeats class certification in Lanham Act lawsuit alleging false labeling and disparagement by indirect competitor
Jones Day has obtained denial of class certification in a first-of-its-kind Lanham Act indirect competitor putative class action lawsuit brought against a bottler. The named plaintiff, a spring water extractor, sought hundreds of millions of dollars in alleged damages to putative classes of water extractors and bottlers, claiming that water was mislabeled as spring water and that the defendant disparaged the plaintiff and his business.
On October 9, 2019, following extensive class certification discovery, United States District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued an opinion denying the plaintiff's motion for class certification. The court held that the plaintiff's motion failed at "the very first step" of its inquiry because the plaintiff was not a spring water bottler himself and had not established the numerosity, typicality, or adequacy of representation elements for his putative spring water extractor class. The court relied on admissions elicited from the plaintiff and his expert witnesses in its decision, determining based on these admissions that the plaintiff did not bottle or sell spring water; that the plaintiff's proposed 400-mile geographic radius for the putative extractor class was not supported by evidence; that the plaintiff's individual claim was not typical of putative class members' claims due to unique circumstances with his spring water sites and fact-based defenses to his claims; and that the plaintiff was not an adequate class representative due to a long-standing animus against another defendant.
The decision significantly narrows the claims at issue in the case.