Firm Wins Major Appeal for Coca-Cola

September 2, 2021

On August 31, the Firm secured a significant appellate victory for The Coca-Cola Company in a long-running multi-district litigation involving the labeling of the company’s flagship beverage, Coke®.

The plaintiffs in the consolidated actions alleged that Coke labels falsely claimed the product contains no artificial flavors or preservatives. According to the complaints, phosphoric acid—which appears on the ingredient list of every Coke container—functions as both an artificial flavor and preservative, but is not described or identified as such. Plaintiffs originally sought injunctive relief and full or partial refunds for every Coke can or bottle sold in the United States since 2009.

After fact and expert discovery, the plaintiffs abandoned their claims for monetary relief, but obtained an order from the district court certifying a class for the purpose of seeking an injunction to force the company to change its labels. The Firm petitioned the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the decision on a discretionary basis and, in a rare move, the court granted the request. On August 31, the 9th Circuit reversed the district court’s order and held that the named plaintiffs faced no risk of injury and thus lacked standing to seek injunctive relief. An "abstract interest in compliance with labeling requirements" is insufficient to establish standing, the court of appeals ruled.

The decision is an important win not only for Coca-Cola but for the consumer products industry, which frequently faces class action lawsuits by plaintiffs with no demonstrable injury.

To read the decision, click here.

To read press coverage, click here.