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Steven Robinson On Behalf of Himself and All Others v. Hornell Brewing Co.

April 11, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, Chief Judge:



This putative class action is before the Court on the motion of Plaintiff Steven Robinson to certify a class pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23. [Docket Item 41.] Plaintiff alleges that, for more than a decade, he was misled by labels on bottles of Defendants' Arizona Brand beverages touting "All Natural" ingredients and thereby induced into buying bottles of Arizona beverages that contained High Fructose Corn Syrup ("HFCS"), which he now believes is not a natural ingredient. Plaintiff is currently before the Court seeking to certify a Rule 23(b)(2) class of New Jersey consumers who purchased similarly labeled beverages that contained HFCS. Plaintiff proposes to certify his New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act ("NJCFA") claim on behalf of:

All New Jersey citizens who purchased within the State of New Jersey, for personal consumption and not for resale, an Arizona brand beverage marketed, advertised and promoted as "100% NATURAL," but which contained HFCS or other non-natural ingredients, from April 13, 2005, until such time as Defendants reform said practice.

Am. Compl. ¶ 20. Plaintiff seeks, on behalf of this class, to enjoin Defendants from claiming that their products containing HFCS are "all natural."

Defendants oppose the motion for several reasons, including that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that he has standing to pursue injunctive relief on behalf of the class, or that he has met the requirements of Rule 23, Fed. R. Civ. P. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion to certify because Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that he has Article III standing to pursue injunctive relief, and is therefore not able to represent this Rule 23(b)(2) class.


Plaintiff alleges that he had been purchasing Arizona brand iced tea beverages for several years prior to April of 2011, and that each time he did so, his purchase was made, in part, based on his belief that the product was "all natural". Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 52-55. This belief was created by the fact that the Arizona beverages were marked with labels bearing the representation that the product was "100% NATURAL"; Plaintiff claims to have paid a premium for those products over other iced tea products that were not so marked. Id. at ¶¶ 56-58.

Then, on April 6, 2011, while he was drinking a bottle of Arizona Iced Tea, Plaintiff alleges that he began a conversation with an acquaintance named Joe Santoli. Robinson Dep. at 17:6-8. Mr. Santoli told Plaintiff that the Arizona beverage, in fact, contained HFCS, which Mr. Santoli explained was not a natural ingredient. Id. at 17:8-13. Plaintiff testified that at the time he had already formed the opinion that HFCS was not a natural ingredient, and was surprised to hear that it was an ingredient in Arizona beverages, which he had always believed to be natural. Id. at 17:13; 83:14-17. Mr. Santoli informed Plaintiff that, in fact, people had sued Arizona's owners because of the labeling of their product. Id. 17:21-24.

Plaintiff said the conversation ended shortly thereafter, but he did not finish the bottle because he "had a very bad taste in my mouth about it. And, as I mentioned before, I think that I was deceived and lied to and cheated." Id. at 83:14-17. Plaintiff stated that he would not have purchased the Arizona beverages over the years had he known they were not "natural" as he understood that term.

If it wasn't labeled all natural, I probably wouldn't have purchased it.

Q: Why?

A: I don't know. It -- I mean, the taste wasn't, in my opinion, it was okay. It wasn't fantastic. So I probably wouldn't have purchased it. I mean, it was a big thing for me.

Id. at 148:23-149:4. In fact, Plaintiff states that he is unlikely to ever purchase an Arizona beverage again, regardless of whether Defendants change the labels on their Arizona branded products to more accurately reflect Plaintiff's understanding of their ingredients. Donovan Cert. Ex. D, Pltf.'s Response to Interrogatory No. 36. ("Plaintiff states that due to his current lack of trust regarding Defendants and their products, there are no changes ...

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