Last month Judge Paul Huck of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted in part and denied in part class certification on claims brought in Fitzpatrick v. General Mills. Judge Huck granted class certification on claims asserted under Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) but denied class certification for claims of breach of express warranty.
The named plaintiff asserted violations of FDUTPA and express warranties for purchases of Yo-Plus yogurt. Plaintiff "alleges that eating Yo-Plus does not provide any digestive health benefits that cannot be obtained from eating normal yogurt."
Judge Huck ruled that in Florida, unlike in many other jurisdictions, consumer fraud claims do not require a showing of actual causation and reliance. Rather, in Florida "each plaintiff is required to prove only that the deceptive practice would—in theory—deceive an objective reasonable consumer." And for that reason, the court found that causation under the FDUTPA does not defeat the predominance requirement of class certification.
While FDUTPA does not require individualized causation and reliance, claims of UCC breach of express warranty do require individualized showing of "the particular promise that created the express warranty," according to the court. For that reason, the court held that "individual issues would predominate as to the breach of express warranty claims."
The Fitzpatrick ruling illustrates the difficulties defendants have in resisting class certification for consumer fraud claims in jurisdictions where the court finds no requirement of individualized reliance or causation.