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In re Tropicana Orange Juice Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 21, 2018

IN RE TROPICANA ORANGE JUICE MARKETING AND SALES PRACTICES LITIGATION MDL 2353 This Document Relates To ALL S

          OPINION

          WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiffs bring this class action against Defendant Tropicana Products, Inc. (“Defendant”), alleging numerous violations of common law and state consumer protection laws, in connection with Defendant's sale of orange juice. This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration of the Court's January 2018 opinion and order denying class certification. There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration is DENIED.

         I.BACKGROUND

         The Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the facts and procedural history of the instant case and writes solely for their benefit. On January 22, 2018, the Court issued an opinion (the “Class Opinion”) and order denying Plaintiffs' motion for class certification. See Op. (“Class Op.”), ECF No. 311; Order, ECF No. 312. The Court found that Plaintiffs met the Rule 23(a) requirements for certification but failed to meet the requirements set forth under Rule 23(b)(2) and (b)(3). Specifically, the Court found that Plaintiffs' common law claims of unjust enrichment and breach of express warranty, and their claims under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“NJCFA”) failed because individual issues predominated over common issues concerning consumers' motivations when deciding to purchase Defendant's orange juice product Tropicana Pure Premium (“TPP”). See Class Op. at 5-11. The Court further found that Plaintiffs' consumer protection claims under New York and California law failed because Plaintiffs did not show by a preponderance of the evidence that they could successfully implement a reliable and administratively feasible mechanism for determining whether putative class members fall within the class definition. See id. at 11-16. Finally, the Court found that Plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue injunctive relief under Rule 23(b)(2) because Plaintiffs failed to show a real and immediate threat of future injury by a preponderance of the evidence. See id. at 16-17.

         Plaintiffs now move for reconsideration, arguing first that the Court made a clear legal error in misconstruing Plaintiffs' theory of liability that contradicts the Court's earlier findings made in its June 2013 opinion addressing Defendant's motion to dismiss. See Pls.' Br. in Supp. of Mot. for Reconsideration (“Pls.' Br.”) 4-6, ECF No. 314. Plaintiffs further submit that the Court made clear legal errors and overlooked dispositive factual circumstances concerning its decision that individual issues predominate Plaintiffs' common law and NJCFA claims. See id. at 7-15. Second, Plaintiffs argue that the Court inappropriately gave more weight to Defendant's expert opinions over Plaintiffs' expert opinions. See id. at 16-17. Moreover, Plaintiffs argue that the Court held Plaintiffs' expert opinions to a higher standard than was otherwise permissible and that the Court essentially ruled on the merits as to whether Plaintiffs' class-wide proof would succeed at trial without allowing such evidence to go before a jury. See id. 17-19. Third, Plaintiffs argue that the Court overlooked evidence of class-wide injury by focusing solely on a small portion of Plaintiffs' expert survey and ignoring Plaintiffs' other expert opinions and survey results. See id. at 19-20. Fourth, Plaintiffs argue that the Court erred in its ascertainability analysis because it “treated any supposed imperfection in the records as fatal, ” it conflated the federal rules of discovery with Rule 23, and it overlooked the clear evidence in the record that class members can be identified. See id. at 20-21. Finally, Plaintiffs argue that the Court should have certified New York and California sub-classes of individuals who purchased TPP at Members Only Club stores as an alternative to Plaintiffs' proposed class. See id. at 21-22.

         Defendant opposes reconsideration, arguing first that Plaintiffs forfeited their “law of the case” argument regarding the Court's earlier findings because they failed to raise it in their motion for class certification. See Def.'s Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. for Reconsideration (“Def.'s Opp'n”) 2, ECF No. 315. Even if they had, Defendant submits that the law-of-the-case doctrine does not apply here. See id. at 3-4. Second, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs attempt to rehash legal arguments that the Court previously rejected, which is impermissible. See id. at 4-6. Third, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs' assertions concerning the Court's treatment of Plaintiffs' expert opinions are meritless because it is the Court's role to determine whether Plaintiffs' evidence satisfies Rule 23, not the role of a jury. See id. at 6-8. Fourth, Defendant submits that Plaintiffs' disagreement with the Court's ascertainability analysis does not amount to clear legal error. See id. at 8-9. Finally, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs cannot use their motion for reconsideration to obtain certification of two new classes, which they failed to ask the Court to consider in their original motion for class certification. See id. at 9-12.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Local Civil Rule 7.1(i) provides that “a motion for reconsideration shall be served and filed within 14 days after the entry of the order or judgment on the original motion by the Judge or Magistrate Judge.” “A motion for reconsideration is properly treated as a motion under Rule 59(e) . . . to alter or amend the judgment.” Koshatka v. Phila. Newspapers, Inc., 762 F.2d 329, 333 (3d Cir. 1985). “[A] judgment may be altered or amended if the party seeking reconsideration shows at least one of the following grounds: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the motion . . .; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.” Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999).

         “The word ‘overlooked' is the operative term in [Rule 7.1(i)].” Lentz v. Mason, 32 F.Supp.2d 733, 751 (D.N.J. 1999) (citation omitted). “Only dispositive factual matters and controlling decisions of law which were presented to the court but not considered on the original motion may be the subject of a motion for reconsideration.” Id. (quotation and citation omitted). “[S]uch motions are not an opportunity to argue what could have been, but was not, argued in the original set of moving and responsive papers.” Id. (quotation and citation omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs move under the clear error of law or manifest injustice rationale. The Court briefly addresses each of Plaintiffs' arguments, but ultimately finds that Plaintiffs do not raise any clear errors of law that warrant reconsideration.

         A. The Class Opinion Does Not Conflict with the Court's June 2013 Opinion Addressing Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and the Court Did Not Misconstrue Plaintiffs' Theory of Liability

         Plaintiffs grossly mischaracterize the Court's June 2013 opinion in arguing that the Class Opinion violates the law-of-the-case doctrine. For example, Plaintiffs cite the following sentence as a finding made by the Court: “Tropicana does not disclose the use of flavor packing on its label nor is it mentioned in its advertising.” See Pls.' Br. at 5. Plaintiffs conveniently ignore that the Court's citation for this sentence, and many others, was Plaintiffs' consolidated amended complaint. The Court was compelled to assume the truth of all allegations therein at the motion to dismiss phase, but that assumption is wholly separate from the Court finding or holding that Plaintiffs did, in fact, prove the truth of their allegations. The Court made no finding or holding regarding Plaintiffs' theory of liability in its June 2013 opinion; instead, it merely reiterated Plaintiffs own allegations in considering whether their claims should survive Defendant's motion to dismiss.[1]

         Regardless of what Plaintiffs represented in 2013, the Court holds Plaintiffs accountable to their representations of their theory of liability in their moving ...


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