A Novel Defense: The Truth

Tetley USA, Inc. is currently defending a false-labeling lawsuit in the Northern District of California (De Keczer v. Tetley USA, Inc., Docket No. 5:12-cv-02409-EJD), filed several years ago on the premise that the plaintiff was deceived by the label saying that the teas provided antioxidants that were good for his health. From the beginning, the plaintiff (and proposed class action) fell short in asserting valid claims, and in a showing of utmost patience from the court, the complaint has been dismissed and amended three times since its inception.

Now, Tetley has filed a motion for summary judgment with an inspiring defense: the label told the truth! So often, class actions, and specifically those targeting food labeling matters, are defended on the basis that there was no cognizable injury to the plaintiff, or no ascertainable class, or that there are procedural discrepancies in the filings which necessitate dismissal. But few actually reach the merits of the accusations. Here, Tetley is making a strong statement. Supported by expert testimony, and highlighting some of the weaknesses of the plaintiff’s motivations, Tetley states that their teas do, in fact, have antioxidants. Bolstered by some of the more familiar defenses named above, Tetley lays a framework in their motion that will force the plaintiffs’ bar to choose carefully that which it challenges.

Since so few of these types of cases make it to dispositive motions, it will be interesting to see how the court rules, and with what reasoning. Check back here for additional updates as they become available.