Stokes O'Brien

California Organic Foods Fraud Lawsuits

Posted in Fraud on January 16, 2016

In Quesada v. Herb Thyme Farms, Inc., the California Supreme Court recently clarified that consumers may sue companies that falsely label their products organic.  California Organic Foods Fraud Lawsuits may exists where the foods are outright not organic, or where organic foods are mixed with non-organic, both of which Michelle Quesada alleges in her purported class action against Herb Thyme Farms, Inc.

Acknowledging that “labels matter,” because consumers rely on them, the Court said, “misrepresentations in labeling undermine this signifying function, preventing consumers from correctly identifying the goods and services that carry the attributes they desire while also hampering honest producers’ attempts to differentiate their merchandise from the competition.”

While the potential for a California fraud lawsuit may seem obvious (given the alleged misrepresentation causing damage), the issue in the case was whether the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (federal law) preempted California law.  Disagreeing with the trial court, appellate court, and defendant farm, the California Supreme Court held that the federal law merely preempts state law with regard to defining and certifying foods as organic (states cannot adopt different definitions).  The federal law does not, however, preempt state law regarding enforcement.  While the federal law provides for enforcement and gives consumer remedies, consumers may still sue for fraud under California law.

Generally speaking, California fraud lawsuits exist where there’s a misrepresentation reasonably relied upon that causes damage.  Here, consumers should certainly bring California Organic Foods Fraud Lawsuits wear foods are mislabeled.  As the Court understood, labeling (and knowing what you’re eating) is paramount.

For more information on fraud lawsuits in California, and for a free consultation, contact our San Diego consumer fraud lawyers on the contact page, or call 619-535-5151.