Northern District of California Issues Mixed Ruling in Class Action Challenging Gerber’s Non-GMO Claims

On Friday, the Northern District of California issued an order denying in part and granting in part Gerber Products Company’s motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit Norman v. Gerber Products Company.

According to the order, Gerber manufactures and sells baby food and infant formula nationwide. Further, the court states the plaintiff purchased Gerber Good Start Soy 2 Powder Infant & Toddler Formula from various retail stores in California.

The plaintiff’s complaint states she purchased the product with the belief that it was not made with GMOs. Further, it states her and other consumers reasonably believed the product was made without GMOs from the product’s labeling. 

The order states several of Gerber’s products include labeling and claims stating “NON GMO” or “NON GMO Not Made With Genetically Engineered Ingredients.” However, the plaintiff alleges  many of Gerber’s products containing the label, including Gerber Good Start Soy 2 Powder Infant & Toddler Formula, contain ingredients derived from genetically- modified food sources and are, therefore, not non-GMO.

Accordingly, the plaintiff filed the present class action lawsuit on behalf of herself and similarly situated consumers challenging the non-GMO claim alleging violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law and Consumers Legal Remedies Act along with breach of express and implied warranty, unjust enrichment misrepresentation and fraud. 

Gerber subsequently filed a motion to dismiss arguing the plaintiff failed to state a claim and standing for equitable resolution for her unjust enrichment claim. Specifically, Gerber argued the plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that ingredients genetically engineered in a laboratory setting and ingredients sourced from animals raised on GMO feed fall within her definition of GMOs.

In the order, the court held the plaintiff adequately alleged that ingredients sourced from animals raised on GMO feed constitute GMOs. However, the court found ingredients genetically engineered in a laboratory setting do not satisfy her definition for GMO because she does not allege the ingredients underwent a transfer of genes during that process. The court accordingly granted Gerber’s motion in regards to ingredients genetically engineered in a laboratory setting. 

Further, the court granted the defendant’s motion in regards to its argument that the plaintiff lacked standing for equitable relief. The court found the plaintiff failed to state that she lacks a legal remedy to satisfy standing for a claim of equitable resolution. However, the court granted the plaintiff leave to amend stating that it is possible that plaintiff could plead she lacks an adequate remedy at law. The court denied Gerber’s motion in regard to its other arguments, finding the plaintiff adequately stated claims for relief. 

The order states the plaintiff has until January 27 to file an amended complaint and the defendant shall file an answer or otherwise respond by February 17. The plaintiff is represented by Bursor & Fisher P.A., and Gerber is represented by White & Case.