Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut denied Nestlé’s summary judgment argument that customers could not sue under various states’ laws because private citizens cannot bring legal actions for violating state law spring water standards. Judge Meyer denied all Defendant/Nestlé claims for summary judgment, except for one pertaining to the Rhode Island Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The Joseph Saveri Law Firm, as Co-Lead Counsel, represents eleven Plaintiffs in a class action suit in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut against Defendant Nestlé Waters North America, Inc. (“Nestlé”), a unit of the giant Swiss food and beverage conglomerate Nestlé, S.A.
The firm represents consumers of Nestlé’s Poland Spring brand “100% Natural Spring Water” bottled water product line (“Poland Spring Water”) from 2003-present, as well as a sub-class of Home & Office consumers and eight sub-classes of retail market consumers in the brand’s primary northeast marketing territory.
The complaint alleges that since it began selling Poland Spring Water in 1993, Nestlé has bottled common groundwater and illegally mislabelled it as “100% Natural Spring Water.” Plaintiffs assert that Nestlé has misrepresented that the water came from one or more of eight purported “natural springs” in Maine when instead ordinary groundwater was collected from drilled wells where the water table is within a few feet of the Earth’s surface.
Plaintiffs allege that none of Nestlé’s eight purported “natural spring” sites contain a genuine spring under Federal Drug Administration (“FDA”) regulations and that to feign compliance with FDA regulations, Nestlé has built or maintained phony, man-made “springs” at seven of its sites. At its eighth site, it uses a machine to sustain the long-defunct Poland Spring.
The complaint alleges that Poland Spring Water labels are also misleading because they depict pristine scenes of water flowing down a verdant hillside or a forest pond, conveying an image of natural purity when in reality, one or more wells at Nestlé’s six largest volume groundwater collection sites–which collectively supply up to 99% of the water in Poland Spring Water products–are near a present or former human waste dump or similar toxic site.
Since 1993, Nestlé has built its Poland Spring Water brand into the country’s largest bottled spring water brand. Consequently, it is alleged that at least 13 million consumers nationwide yearly buy Poland Spring Water under false and deceptive circumstances. Nestlé’s economies of scale have enabled it to charge lower prices that genuine spring water purveyors cannot match. This has allowed Nestlé to capture consumers of (1) lower cost purified water or other bottled drinking water products, and (2) other premium water products that are priced higher than Poland Spring Water.
Plaintiffs’ Class Action Complaint seeks refunds of the unjustified premiums Poland Spring Water consumers have paid or, alternatively, to minimum statutory penalties under state false advertising laws. Plaintiffs also seek permanent injunctive relief compelling Nestlé to remove its unlawfully labeled Poland Spring Water products from retail store shelves and judgment precluding Nestlé, on future product labels, from referring to “100% Natural Spring Water,” from using the “Poland Spring” brand name, and from depicting misleading pristine mountain or forest spring scenes.
In May 2018, The Court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ complaint on the grounds that their claims, as framed at the time, were pre-empted by federal law. In June 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Consolidated Amended Class Action Complaint, which Defendants moved to dismiss. On March 28, 2019, the Court issued an Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. The Court, acknowledging Plaintiffs had reframed their claims under the amended complaint, granted Nestlé’s motion to dismiss claims related to Vermont law but denied the company’s other motions to dismiss.
August 12, 2020