Judge Throws Out Frozen Pizza Trans Fat Class Action Lawsuit
By Anne Bucher
A California federal judge has dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit that accused California Pizza Kitchen Inc. and Nestle USA Inc. of including artificial trans fatty acids in some of their frozen pizzas even though healthier options were available, finding that the plaintiffs failed to show an increased risk posed by the trans fats.
Plaintiff Katie Simpson filed the frozen pizza class action lawsuit in January, asserting claims of public nuisance and unfair and unlawful business practices based on the companies’ use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Simpson accused the companies of “deliberately poisoning their consumers” by using a “toxic carcinogen” in their products. She argued that the consumption of artificial trans fatty acids (TFAs) increases the risk of developing adverse health conditions including type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, organ damage, and breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.
U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino dismissed the class action lawsuit after finding that Simpson lacked Article III standing to pursue her claims.
“Here, defendants object to plaintiff’s standing on the basis of the injury prong,” Judge Sammartino said in his October 1 decision. In order to show injury, a plaintiff must show that they were suffered an increased risk of harm due to exposure to a dangerous substance and that they suffered financial loss from relying on false or misleading information when purchasing a product.
“Plaintiff alleges in her (class action lawsuit) that she bought the contested pizzas ‘approximately five times in the past year,’ While plaintiff does present significant evidence of the harmful effects of prolonged consumption of TFAs, she does not allege facts tending to show that such isolated instances of TFA consumption are sufficient to cause the enumerated harmful effects. Thus, based on the allegations in the (class action lawsuit), this court is not convinced that consuming TFAs five times over the period of a year represents a substantial increased risk of harm, much less that the probability of that harm is substantial,” Judge Sammartino said in her decision to dismiss the frozen pizza class action lawsuit.
Judge Sammartino also found that Simpson failed to show that she suffered a loss from the product such as overpayment, loss in value or loss in usefulness. The judge found that Simpson purchased the pizzas for the purpose of consuming the product. Because Simpson consumed the pizzas, she “received the benefit of her bargain from the purchase of the contested pizzas,” the judge said.
Judge Sammartino also found that Simpson did not choose to purchase the products based on false or misleading representations because the pizza packaging stated that the products contained TFAs. “Therefore, having not alleged any advertising or wording on the product that may have misled plaintiff into believing that the contested pizzas were free of TFAs, plaintiff has not alleged an injury premised on economic loss due to misleading information,” Judge Sammartino said.
Although Judge Sammartino dismissed the class action lawsuit, she will allow Simpson to file an amended complaint.
Simpson is represented by Gregory S. Weston, Jack Fitzgerald, Melanie Persinger and Paul K. Joseph of the Weston Firm.
The Frozen Pizza Trans Fat Class Action Lawsuit is Katie Simpson v. California Pizza Kitchen Inc., et al., Case No. 3:13-cv-00164, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
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