News Flash! Jelly Beans Contain Sugar—The Continuing Saga of Evaporated Cane Juice Litigation

mckenziy_printGuest Commentary

By Yvonne M. McKenzie, a Partner with Pepper Hamilton LLP in the firm’s Philadelphia, PA office, and Colleen Kelly, an Associate with the firm.

In February, plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit in California against candy maker Jelly Belly on behalf of consumers who purchased jelly beans marketed as “Sport Beans.” They claimed that Jelly Belly used the phrase “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ) in its ingredient labeling to mislead consumers about the amount of sugar in Sport Beans.

Jelly Belly markets the product to athletes seeking a jolt of “quick energy,” which is usually accomplished through ingesting sugar and carbohydrates. Far from masking its ingredients, the product labeling clearly states that Sport Beans contain 19 grams of sugar per serving. Despite this, the plaintiffs claimed that the term ECJ misled them into thinking that the product contained juice, not sugar. Never mind that juice itself typically contains sugar. Continue reading

From Sea to Shining Sea: The Ninth Circuit Aligns with the Second Circuit in Affirming “Omnicare” Decision’s Benefits for Securities-Suit Targets

greenedFinkelsteinGuest Commentary

By Doug Greene and Bret Finkelstein, a Partner and an Associate, respectively, with Lane Powell PC in the firm’s Seattle, WA office.

In a matter of first impression in the Ninth Circuit, the court applied the Supreme Court’s Omnicare standard for pleading the falsity of a statement of opinion in City of Dearborn Heights Act 345 Police & Fire Retirement System v. Align Technology, Inc., — F.3d —, 2017 WL 1753276 (9th Cir. May 5, 2017). The Ninth Circuit decision builds on the momentum for the defense bar following the 2016 Second Circuit opinion in Tongue v. Sanofi, 816 F.3d 199 (2d Cir. 2016), correctly applies the rationale of Omnicare to Section 10(b) cases, and applies the Omnicare falsity analysis to an important category of statements of opinion: accounting reserves.

The Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 decision, Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015), was originally met with mixed reviews by securities litigators of all stripes. Some commentators—including members of the defense bar—raised alarm following Omnicare, worrying that the decision was a win for plaintiffs because they felt it created a new area of potential liability for statements of opinion that were honestly held, but nonetheless misleading. Continue reading

Preserved Shark Repellent: Pennsylvania’s Abuse-of-Process Law Withstands a Constitutional Challenge

Shark_as_part_of_a_law_office_sign

Source: WikiMedia Commons

By Hillary Hunter, a 2017 Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation who will be entering her third year at Texas Tech University School of Law in the fall.

Suppose while swimming through life, innocently enough you draw the attention of an aggressive lawyer. You did nothing wrong, but still find yourself being circled by a predator. Now, like a shark sensing blood in the water, suppose the lawyer goes in for a bite. He files a baseless lawsuit, one aimed at wearing down your resources and patience to the point where you will surrender and settle. As you do your best to keep your head above water, you consider your options. Is there any shark repellent around?

Victims of lawsuit abuse in some states, in fact, do have legislatively crafted tools at their disposal to fight back. For example, Pennsylvania’s Dragonetti Act recently survived a state constitutional separation–of–powers challenge. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the law in Villani v. Seibert reflects the shared responsibility of the legislative and judicial branches to direct a state’s legal system and govern attorney conduct. Continue reading

The Supreme Court’s “Microsoft Corp. v. Baker” Decision Restores Much Needed Sanity to Federal Appellate Procedure

supreme courtMicrosoft Corp. v. Baker is one of those cases that only a lawyer could love. At issue was whether a federal appellate court has jurisdiction to review a class-certification order if the plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed all of their claims, with prejudice.

Class-action plaintiffs have long sought the right to immediately appeal from orders denying class certification. In the 1960s and 1970s, some federal courts of appeals began allowing such an immediate right of appeal under the so-called death-knell doctrine. Under that judicially created rule, if the plaintiffs could show that the denial of class certification—if left unreviewed—would end the lawsuit for all practical purposes, the appeals court would grant review of that interlocutory order. Continue reading

WLF Garners Fifth Consecutive US Supreme Court Victory with “Baker v. Microsoft”

supreme courtOn June 12 in Microsoft v. Baker, the US Supreme Court unanimously rejected a class-action litigation tactic that created an unfair advantage for plaintiffs in such suits. Both Justice Ginsburg in her majority opinion and Justice Thomas in his concurrence in judgment embraced arguments made in Washington Legal Foundation’s victorious amicus brief. WLF had also filed an amicus brief in support of Microsoft before an en banc panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and further filed in support of the company’s cert petition to the Supreme Court after its loss in the appeals court.

The Baker decision is the fifth consecutive Supreme Court victory for WLF. The other four cases are:

The Court has not yet released opinions in four additional cases in which WLF filed amicus briefs (CalPERS v. ANZ Securities, Inc.; Jennings v. Rodriguez; Ziglar v. Abbasi; and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court), and we are also awaiting a decision on the cert petition WLF filed on behalf of its client, Chance Gordon, in Gordon v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

On Tuesday, June 27, 1:00-2:00 pm EST, WLF will be holding its 28th annual US Supreme Court end-of-the-Term briefing, which will focus on the cases noted above as well as other decisions that affect the free-enterprise system and economic liberties. Details appear below:

The U.S. Supreme Court: October 2016 Term Review
>RSVP to attend in person or live online to glammi@wlf.org
>Speakers:

 

 

See Spot Sue?: Eleventh Circuit’s Bar on Dog Defendants Exemplifies Problems with Allowing Animal Plaintiffs

By Jordan FowlerDraco, a 2017 Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation who will be entering her third year at Texas Tech University School of Law in the fall.

You can sue your grocer, you can sue your policeman, you can even sue your neighbor John, but can you sue neighbor John’s dog? In May, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit firmly answered that question: no.  In Jones v. Fransen it held that a plaintiff could not sue a police dog for excessive force due to constraints in statutory language and practical problems. This holding is notable beyond its unusual facts: it demonstrates that although many plaintiffs’ attorneys creatively seek new clients, the impracticalities of suing a dog demonstrate why an attorney also cannot represent a dog—or any other animal—as a plaintiff in an animal rights lawsuit.   Continue reading

Tuned in to the First Amendment: Court Upholds Satellite Radio’s Right to Choose Advertisers

sirius XMBusiness entities have endured increasingly strident criticism of their free speech rights in recent years. Thankfully, the US Supreme Court and most lower federal courts have declined to embrace critics’ ideologically-driven perspective that the First Amendment does not protect corporate speech. Such judicial respect for a business’s speech rights was recently on display in an unusual setting: a contract dispute between Sirius XM Radio and an advertiser. The court decision arising from that dispute, InfoStream Group v. Sirius XM Radio Inc., both demonstrates how the First Amendment can provide an effective defense and underscores the principle that not all speech by commercial enterprises is “commercial speech.” Continue reading