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Chin v. General Mills, Inc.

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

May 31, 2013

TRACIE CHIN and SALVATORE MONTALBANO, individually, and on behalf of other members of the general public similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
GENERAL MILLS, INC., Defendant.

Andrea Clisura, Antonio Vozzolo, and Juan E. Monteverde, Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP, and Shawn M. Perry, Perry & Perry PLLP, Counsel for Plaintiffs.

Jerry W. Blackwell, Benjamin W. Hulse, Emily A. Babcock, and Mary S. Young, Blackwell Burke PA, Counsel for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF LAW & ORDER

MICHAEL J. DAVIS, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). [Docket No. 20] The Court heard oral argument on March 15, 2013. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Defendant's motion to dismiss.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

1. Parties

Defendant General Mills is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Minnesota. (Compl. ¶ 9.) General Mills produces, markets, and sells Nature Valley products, including "Protein Chewy Bars, " "Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars, " "Yogurt Chewy Granola Bars, " "Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bars, " and "Granola Thins." (Id. at ¶ 1.)

Plaintiffs are consumers who purchased one or more of the Nature Valley products. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.) Plaintiff Tracie Chin is a resident of Brooklyn, New York. (Id. at ¶ 7.) She purchased and consumed Nature Valley products on multiple occasions during the identified class period from various retailors, including Duane Reade, Pathmark, and Costco. (Id.) Chin purchased Nature Valley Granola Thins from a Costco store in Brooklyn, New York during the summer of 2012. (Id.) Chin purchased Nature Valley "Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bars" from a Duane Reade store in New York, New York during the summer of 2011 and from a Pathmark store in Staten Island, New York at least four different times between 2011 and the spring of 2012. (Id.)

Plaintiff Salvatore Montalbano is a resident of East Brunswick, New Jersey. (Id. at ¶ 8.) On multiple occasions, Montalbano purchased and consumed Nature Valley "Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars, " "Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bars, " and "Granola Thins" from a Shop Rite store in New Jersey. (Id.)

2. Allegations of Misconduct

Plaintiffs allege that General Mills has engaged in unfair, unlawful, deceptive, and misleading practices in violation of Federal law, Minnesota state law, New York state law, New Jersey state law, and common law. (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 35-128.) Plaintiffs maintain that General Mills markets its Nature Valley products as "100% Natural" or "Natural." (Id. at ¶¶ 2-3, 15-18.) Plaintiffs assert that the Nature Valley products are not "natural" because the products contain "highly processed and non-natural sugar substitutes high fructose corn syrup and high maltose corn syrup, as well as the highly processed and non-natural texturizer Maltodextrin." (Id. at ¶¶ 4-5, 19-34.)

Plaintiffs maintain that General Mills represents that the products are "100% Natural" in order to command a premium price for the products, take away market share from its competitors, and increase its own profits." (Id. at ¶¶ 3, 42-46.) Plaintiffs Chin and Montalbano assert that they relied on General Mills' representations that the products were "100% Natural" when they purchased the products. (Id. at ¶¶ 7-8.) Plaintiffs Chin and Montalbano also assert that they would not have purchased the products under the same terms if they had known that they contained "highly processed and non-natural sugar substitutes high fructose corn syrup and high maltose corn syrup, as well as the highly processed and non-natural texturizer Maltodextrin." (Id.)

B. Procedural Background

On August 31, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in this Court against General Mills alleging nine counts relating to the Nature Valley Granola Bars. [Docket No. 1] On November 26, 2012, General Mills moved to dismiss the Complaint for lack of jurisdiction. [Docket No. 8] On December 17, 2012, the parties filed a stipulation with the Court whereby the parties agreed to continue General Mills' motion to dismiss pending the filing of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. [Docket No. 15]

On January 4, 2013, Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint. [Docket No. 19] The Amended Complaint alleges Count I: Violation of Written Warranty under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301, et seq.; Count II: Violation of Implied Warranty of Merchantability under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301, et seq. and under New York and New Jersey State Law; Count III: Unjust Enrichment under state law; Count IV: Breach of Express Warranty under state law; Count V: Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability under state law; Count VI: Fraudulent Misrepresentation under state law; Count VII: Violation of Minnesota Consumer Protection Laws; Count VIII: Violation of the New York Unfair and Deceptive Business Practices Law, N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 349, et seq.; Count IX: Violation of the False Advertising Law, N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 350, et seq.; Count X: Violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, STAT. ANN. § 56:8-1, et seq.

Plaintiffs seek to sue on behalf of "all persons in the United States who, within the relevant statute of limitations period, purchased Nature Valley products that contained high fructose corn syrup or high maltose corn syrup or Maltodextrin and were packaged, labeled, marketed, or advertised as being "100% Natural." (Compl. at ¶ 48.) Plaintiff Chin also seeks to represent a "subclass defined as all members of the Class who purchased Nature Valley products in New York. (Id. at ¶ 49.) Plaintiff Montalbano also seeks to represent a "subclass defined as all members of the Class who purchased Nature Valley products in New Jersey." (Id. at ¶ 50.)

On January 22, 2013, Defendants filed the current motion to dismiss and allege that the Complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack ...


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