Plaintiffs Seek To Keep Mac & Cheese Lawsuit In California Court

Aaron Clarke and Michelle Devera told the Northern District of California on Friday that the Kraft Heinz Company did not have sufficient reason to transfer their putative class action lawsuit against it to the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiffs claimed that the transfer would not promote justice and that the defendant hoped to move the lawsuit to obtain a more favorable ruling.

The initial lawsuit which was filed in early April alleged that Kraft Heinz knew that harmful chemicals, specifically ortho-phthalates or phthalates, were present in its Mac & Cheese but did not let consumers know about the chemicals through alerts on the packaging or other methods. The plaintiffs alleged that, among other things, the chemicals can increase cancer risk and cause developmental deficiencies. The chemicals are reportedly used in plastics to make them more flexible, and are transferred into food products through manufacturing equipment. The plaintiffs recently filed an amended complaint in the matter.

Kraft Heinz asked to transfer the lawsuit, arguing that a similar lawsuit, which the plaintiffs noted was filed after this one, is pending in the Northern District of Illinois. The company argued that having the same court decide both cases would be in the interest of justice, specifically since the putative classes include some of the same members. Additionally, the defendant reportedly has a headquarters in the Illinois district, which would give personal jurisdiction to the Illinois court. 

In the present filing, Clarke and Devera claimed that the defendant did not sufficiently support that the lawsuit should be transferred.  The plaintiff cited claims from the defendant that the case “‘might have been brought’ in the Northern District of Illinois,” and argued that the same could be said about the California court where the lawsuit was brought. 

The plaintiffs further argued that moving the matter may lead some parties or witnesses to not need to travel, but it would cause other parties or witnesses to travel and would “shift, rather than eliminate” this burden. Because of this, the plaintiffs alleged that the balance of conveniences would not lead to a transfer. 

Finally, the objection claimed that the transfer “would not promote the interests of justice.” The plaintiffs alleged that the Northern District of California is more suited to address the plaintiffs claims because they were brought on behalf of a putative class of California consumers. Because of this, they claimed that the California court would have a better interest in protecting its residents. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Bursor & Fisher and the defendant is represented by Jenner & Block LLP. The court will consider the motion to transfer on August 26.