Release Date: January 22, 2010
Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (“NCL”) is hailing as “a win for consumers,” a remand decision handed down on January 15, 2010 by United States District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. Judge Kennedy granted the League’s motion to remand its case against General Mills, Inc. back to the District of Columbia Superior Court.
The NCL filed this case as a “private attorney general” on behalf of the “General Public of the District of Columbia” under DC’s Consumer Protection and Procedures Act (“CPPA”). The complaint alleges that General Mills made improper claims that Cheerios has a drug-like benefit in reducing cholesterol in people who consume it. Indeed, on May 5, 2009, in response to a September 17, 2008 letter from the NCL, the United States Food and Drug Administration informed General Mills that it found that General Mills had committed “serious violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act” and that its Cheerios product was “misbranded” because “it bears unauthorized health claims in its label.”
The NCL commenced its case in DC Superior Court on August 20, 2009. In October, General Mills filed a “Notice of Removal”, thereby causing the transfer of the NCL’s case to federal court. General Mills argued that the case should be treated as a class action under the Class Action Fairness Act. In response, NCL filed an Emergency Motion to Remand. On January 15, Judge Kennedy ruled in NCL’s favor, stating that the federal court had neither subject matter jurisdiction nor Article III standing, as the NCL’s claim arises from “alleged harm to the general public rather than to the League itself.”
As Judge Kennedy noted, “Challenging conduct like General Mills’ alleged mislabeling is the very purpose of consumer advocacy organizations. As such, General Mills’ alleged conduct does not hamper NCL’s advocacy effort; if anything it gives NCL an opportunity to carry out its mission.” Judge Kennedy further found that the CPPA should be “construed and applied liberally to promote its purpose” to deter and remedy improper trade practices, and that, as such, “CPPA claims brought on behalf of the general public as here . . . need not comply with” class action rules.
“We are gratified that Judge Kennedy recognized the value groups like the National Consumers League bring in representing the interests of the public in fighting false and deceptive advertising,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director.
The NCL’s case against General Mills is now able to move forward – as NCL had asked -- in the District of Columbia’s Superior Court.
NCL is represented by Donald Enright and Karen Marcus of Finkelstein Thompson LLP, a Washington DC-based firm.
About the National Consumers League
Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.