Misbranded Blog

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Misbranded is Patterson Belknap’s blog covering false advertising litigation—both consumer class actions and competitor suits—with a particular focus on FDA-regulated products (foods/beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and dietary supplements).  Writing from the industry perspective, we provide timely updates on important cases, surveys of litigation trends, and in-depth analyses of “hot” legal issues.  Our firm pioneered the modern practice of false advertising law more than 40 years ago, bringing the first competitor suits under the Lanham Act.  In the decades since, we have continued to practice at the cutting edge, handling many of the field’s most groundbreaking cases on behalf of the nation’s best-known businesses.  Today, led by Steven A. Zalesin, our team advocates creatively, strategically, and efficiently on behalf of our clients at all phases of litigation, from pre-complaint demands to Supreme Court appeals.

Court Certifies Class Action Over Gerber “Good Start Gentle” Baby Formula, Citing Consumers’ General Exposure to Ad Campaign

A recent decision from the Eastern District of New York, Hoth v. Gerber Prods. Co., 15-cv-2995 (E.D.N.Y.), granted class certification to purchasers of Gerber baby formula in Florida and New York who claimed to have been misled by representations that the formula reduced infants’ risk of developing allergies. The certified class is unusual, however, in that not all of its members actually purchased the product labeled with the alleged misrepresentation. Many courts have concluded that this lack of uniform exposure defeats certification by precluding a showing of classwide injury, but the Hoth court credited evidence that the general “advertising and labeling practice [regarding allergy prevention] allowed a price premium to be charged across the entire line of [challenged] products.” Op. at 41 (emphasis in original).

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Class Damages Models After Comcast: Rigorous Proof or Expert’s Promise?

In Comcast v. Behrend, 569 U.S. 27 (2013), the Supreme Court held that a plaintiff cannot obtain class certification with an inadequate damages model.  In the years since, courts have diverged over how much a plaintiff must do to satisfy this requirement.  Often, plaintiffs seek class certification with nothing more than a skeletal proposal to develop and perform an analysis at some future point, using information they do not—and might never—possess.  While some courts have found such adumbrative “models” sufficient at the class certification stage, the better decisions require more.  As Comcast recognizes, Rule 23 “does not set forth a mere pleading standard.”  Rather, a plaintiff “must affirmatively demonstrate” through “evidentiary proof” that damages are measurable on a class-wide basis through a common methodology.  Faithful application of that principle obligates plaintiffs and their experts to offer a detailed methodology that is tailored to the facts of the case, and to show that any data that the model requires in fact exists and can be obtained.

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