United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MAUREEN STEWART, KELLY LAMICELLA, and NICOLE BELLO, individuals, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
BEAM GLOBAL SPIRITS & WINE, INC., et al., Defendants.
Barbara Spillman Schweiger, Esquire, David Benjamin Wolfe, Esquire, Evan Andrew Showell, Esquire, Jane J. Felton, Esquire, Skoloff & Wolfe, P.C., Livingston, New Jersey, Attorneys for Plaintiff.
John B. Kearney, Esquire, Michael Robert Carroll, Esquire, Ballard Spahr LLP, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Attorneys for Defendants Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Inc. And Jim Beam Brands Co.
Aaron Van Nostrand, Esquire, David E. Sellinger, Esquire, Greenberg Traurig LLP, Florham Park, New Jersey, Attorneys for Defendant SGC Global, L.L.C. and Skinny Girl Cocktails, L.L.C.
David E. Sellinger, Esquire, Greenberg Traurig LLP, Florham Park, New Jersey, and Laura D. Castner, Esquire, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP, Santa Monica, California, Attorneys for Defendant Bethenny Frankel.
NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.
Presently before the Court in this putative class action is the renewed motion [Doc. No. 199] for class certification filed by Plaintiffs Maureen Stewart, Kelly Lamicella, and Nicole Belo. Plaintiffs previously filed a motion for class certification, which the Court denied without prejudice based upon Plaintiffs' failure to demonstrate the ascertainability of the proposed classes in accordance with Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and recent Third Circuit case law. In their renewed motion, Plaintiffs have attempted to address the issues identified in the Court's prior opinion and order on class certification. Defendants, Beam Global Spirits and Wine LLC and Jim Beam Brands Co. (hereafter, collectively "Beam"), SGC Global LLC and Skinny Girl Cocktails, LLC (hereafter, collectively "SGC") and Bethenny Frankel (hereafter, "Frankel"), have all opposed Plaintiffs' renewed motion.
The Court has considered the parties' submissions and decides this matter pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' renewed motion for class certification is denied.
The Court exercises jurisdiction over this putative class action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2), the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA").
The background of this case was set forth in the Court's Opinion [Doc. No. 187] dated June 26, 2014. Plaintiffs generally allege in this action that Defendants market and sell a beverage product called "Skinnygirl Margarita, " which they represent is an "all natural" product which "uses only natural ingredients[, ]" even though the product contains sodium benzoate. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 2.) According to Plaintiffs, "Defendants undertook an extensive media campaign promoting Skinny Girl... [as] a healthy alternative to other commercial Margarita products presently available[, ]" but the product purportedly does not live up to these claims. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that they purchased Skinnygirl Margarita based on these representations by Defendants, which were made in advertisements and on the product packaging. (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiffs further assert that Defendants' claims are false, deceptive, and misleading. (Id.)
Following discovery, Plaintiffs filed a motion seeking certification of the following three classes:
(1) A New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act ("NJCFA") Class consisting of "All persons who, at any time during the Class Period, purchased Skinnygirl Margarita in New Jersey."
(2) A Breach of Express Warranty Class consisting of "All persons in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, who, during the Class Period, bought Skinnygirl Margarita."
(3) An Unjust Enrichment Class consisting of "All persons in Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming who, during the Class Period, purchased Skinnygirl Margarita."
(Br. in Supp. of Pls.' Mot. for Class Certification [Doc. No. 123-1] 2-3.) Plaintiffs defined the "Class Period" as the time period beginning with "the launch of the product in approximately August of 2009 [through] September 6, 2011." (Id. at 1.)
Defendants Beam, SGC and Frankel all opposed Plaintiffs' first motion for class certification, arguing that Plaintiffs could not satisfy the ascertainability requirement described in recent Third Circuit case law. Plaintiffs attempted to address the issue in their reply brief, but the Court concluded that the methodology proposed by Plaintiffs for ascertaining the Classes did not satisfy the ascertainability requirement. Accordingly, the Court denied Plaintiffs' motion for class certification, without prejudice to Plaintiffs' ability to file a renewed motion for class certification in accordance with Third Circuit case law. Plaintiffs then filed the instant motion.
III. LEGAL STANDARD
A. Rule 23
In order to qualify for class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, a plaintiff must satisfy the four elements set forth in Rule 23(a), as well as the requirements of one of the three subsections in Rule 23(b). Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2548-49, 180 L.Ed.2d 374 (2011). Rule 23(a) contains the prerequisites for a class, providing that class certification is proper if:
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). "[Class] certification is proper only if the trial court is satisfied, after a rigorous analysis, that the prerequisites of Rule 23(a) have been satisfied.'" Hayes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 725 F.3d 349, 353-54 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Dukes, 131 S.Ct. at 2551).
Once a plaintiff satisfies all four prerequisites under Rule 23(a), Rule 23(b) then identifies the types of class actions that can be brought. Plaintiffs in this case seek certification pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3), which provides that a class may be certified if "the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for ...