Last week at the DRI products liability conference in New Orleans, Lara White from Adams and Reese and I presented "Regulatory Compliance Alone Is Not Enough: Understanding and Mitigating Consumer Fraud Claims." Our presentation dealt with putative class claims aimed at the marketing and labeling of food products. A link to the slide-deck can be found here. A link to the paper we submitted at the conference can be found here.
In our presentation we discussed the kinds of consumer fraud claims that have been litigated recently against the food industry and what can be expected going forward.
We also discussed effective strategies for defeating putative class claims at the earliest possible stage. While some preemption arguments in a limited number of cases may still be viable, lawyers and clients should be aware that preemption defenses are eroding. Even when a preemption argument appears to be on ”all fours” it may be worth focusing instead on a challenge to the plausibility of the pleadings.
The U.S. Supreme Court in its Iqbal and Twombly decisions said that a court must disregard conclusory allegations and scrutinize the complaint’s factual allegations to determine whether it nudges the alleged wrong-doing “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” In other words, the complaint must have meat on its bones. In the case of a consumer fraud class complaint, the plaintiffs’ counsel, to survive a motion to dismiss, must include references to evidence or other substantiation for the claim such as consumer surveys or perhaps a government finding. Bare allegations of consumer behavior, nutrition, or damages may be subject to challenge in a Rule 12 motion to dismiss.