Federal Judge Ices Cold Drink Consumer Class Action against Starbucks

Federal Judge Ices Cold Drink Consumer Class Action against Starbucks

A federal judge dismissed a putative consumer class action against Starbucks for fraud and violations of various consumer statutes. The gist of the action is that customers were deceived by “underfilled” cold drinks topped off with ice. Farouzesh v. Starbucks Corp., 2016 WL 4443203 (USDC, Cent. District of Calif., Aug. 19, 2016, judgment entered Aug. 26, 2016).

In Farouzesh, the plaintiff alleged that he and others were deceived because the menu listed a Grande cold drink, for example, as containing 16 ounces when, in fact, the drink contained only 12 ounces of liquid and ice in a 16-ounce cup.

The Court ruled that plaintiff failed to plead his legal claims so as to give rise to a reasonable expectation that discovery would reveal any supporting evidence. The Court dismissed plaintiff’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, and False Advertising Law claims, noting that the average consumer could not be deceived into thinking that a cold drink would contain only “drinkable liquid,” as opposed to liquid and ice in a particular cup size, especially since clear cups enable consumers to see exactly what they’re getting.

The fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims likewise were dismissed. Since a reasonable consumer understands the cup to contain both liquid and ice, there could be no misrepresentation or justifiable reliance. The breach of warranty claims met with the same fate since Starbucks does not state (and no benefit of the bargain can be based on the supposed fact) that cold drinks contain a specific amount of liquid, as opposed to different cup sizes that contain both liquid and ice.

The Court threw out the “claims” for unjust enrichment and injunctive relief as remedies, not claims, and regardless, plaintiff failed to state any viable substantive claims entitling him to seek such remedies.

Farouzesh teaches class action plaintiffs that if they fail to use common sense before filing putative class actions, defense counsel and the courts will use common sense to dismiss them. 

Topics: Consumer Fraud

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