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Judge Dismisses Walmart Labeling Misrepresentation Suit

A Walmart store front.

Salinas, United States - April 8, 2014: Walmart store exterior. Walmart is an American multinational corporation that runs large discount stores and is the world's largest public corporation.

The Northern District of Illinois issued an opinion written by Judge Charles R. Norgle on Tuesday. The suit was filed by plaintiff Eugene DeMaso (both individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated) against defendant Walmart, Inc. and alleged that the defendant misrepresented their Fudge Mint Cookies product in a manner that was harmful to consumers.

Under their Great Value brand, Walmart produces and markets Fudge Mint Cookies. DeMaso asserted that the defendant’s product was labeled in a misleading manner, since the label makes claims that the product contains both fudge and mint ingredients when it does not. The plaintiff also argued that “the label, by truthfully asserting it contains cocoa, makes consumers trust the fudge and mint claims.”

DeMaso claimed that the defendant intentionally misrepresented its product in order to gain an advantage against other companies. The plaintiff cited claims of violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, the Consumer Fraud Acts of the States in the Consumer Fraud Multi-State Class, breaches of express warranty, implied warranty of merchantability, and the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and unjust enrichment.

Walmart moved to dismiss DeMaso’s claims. In reviewing the case, the Court dismissed some of the plaintiff’s claims since the product’s labeling was deemed not misleading as DeMaso had claimed. The remainder of DeMaso’s claims then failed since they were based on the theories that had been dismissed by the Court.

The Court explained that a reasonable consumer would not “plausibly expect the Product’s label to promise fudge made from specific ingredients, such as butter and milk,” and that the product’s mint representations promise mint as a flavor rather than an ingredient.

Lastly, Judge Norgle writes that “because the Product;s labeling is not false, misleading, or deceptive as a matter of law, Plaintiff’s other claims [out-of-state consumer fraud acts, common law, and MMWA claims] also fail.”

The opinion concluded that since the plaintiff did not plausibly allege that a reasonable consumer would be misled by the labeling and an amendment to his complaint would not change that, the complaint would be dismissed with prejudice.

Plaintiff DeMaso was represented in the litigation by Sheehan & Associates, while defendant Walmart, Inc. was represented by Jenner & Block.

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