WLF Enjoys Significant Free-Enterprise Victories in Fifth and Ninth Circuits

Last week brought two significant appeals court victories for Washington Legal Foundation in cases in which we filed amicus briefs. The cases involved two highly contested civil-litigation issues: state-law liability for allegedly misleading food labeling and “fraudulent joinder.”

9thCirOn March 24, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its long-awaited decision in Kane v. Chobani, Inc.  WLF filed an amicus brief on November 15, 2014 in this appeal of a Northern District of California (a/k/a “the Food Court”) decision in a food-labeling class-action suit. The WLF Legal Pulse has followed and commentated on this suit since its inception. Kane accused Chobani of utilizing the term “natural” on its label in a misleading fashion. Rather than ruling on the legal issues originally briefed by both sides and by WLF in its amicus brief, the Ninth Circuit directed the district court to stay the lawsuit based on the “primary jurisdiction” doctrine. The opinion concluded that because FDA has initiated proceedings aimed at formally defining “natural” for product-labeling purposes, continuing the suit would directly conflict with a matter over which FDA has primary jurisdiction. Numerous class-action suits alleging the misleading use of “natural” on product labels are pending in federal courts in California and other states. Kane may provide those courts an impetus to similarly issue stays, WLF relates in its press release on the victory.

5thCirAlso on March 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an 11-4 en banc decision in Flagg v. Stryker Corp. WLF filed an amicus brief on January 11, 2016 urging the full circuit to reverse a previous decision by a three-judge Fifth Circuit panel. The legal question in Flagg was when could a federal district court refuse a plaintiff’s request that a lawsuit be remanded to state court where the plaintiff includes a defendant in the suit for the sole purpose of preventing diversity jurisdiction. WLF’s amicus brief explains the important federalism principles on which the doctrine of “fraudulent joinder” is based, and which the three-judge Fifth Circuit panel ignored in its Flagg decision. The en banc panel ruled that the improperly joined plaintiff did not deny the federal district court of subject-matter jurisdiction.

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