Friday, March 25, 2011

Florida Food Class Certification Vacated, But....

Today the Eleventh Circuit vacated the certification of a Florida consumer protection (FDUTPA) class action in Fitzpatrick v. General Mills, Inc., ___ F.3d ___, No. 10-11064, slip op. (11th Cir. March 25, 2011).  The complaint alleged false statements about the health benefits of Yoplait yogurt.  The trial court has certified a class consisting of class as “all persons who purchased YoPlus in the State of Florida to obtain its claimed digestive health benefit.”

Generally we cheer when class certification are reversed.  But not this time.  Check out what the court actually said:
The district court’s analysis in its Order on Motion for Class Certification is sound and in accord with federal and state law. . . .  And, if the definition of the class had been in accord with the legal analysis, we would have readily affirmed. . . .  In its analysis, the district court repeatedly stated that a plaintiff need not prove reliance on the allegedly false statement to recover damages under FDUTPA . . . [a]nd, this is correct.

The court reversed because the class definition was too narrow - that it "takes into account individual reliance."  Id. at 9.  The proper definition, according to the court, should simply have been "all purchasers . . . in the state of Florida."  Id. at 8 n.1.

We don't know when we've last seen a class certification reversed on this basis - if ever.
Slip op. at 8-9.  Not what we like to see.