You may see yummy treats and snacks when shopping at the grocery store, but some people see big paydays. While lawsuits against food and beverage companies are nothing new, these suits have surged in recent years, and 2021 is no exception.
Trial lawyers have filed a whole cart’s worth of food-related lawsuits over issues like the amount of lime juice in “hint of lime chips,” and whether Hawaiian rolls are Hawaiian. If it seems like there are more of these lawsuits, it’s because there are. A recent ILR research paper, The Food Court: Developments In Litigation Targeting Food And Beverage Marketing, found these lawsuits have increased 52 percent since 2017, with more than half filed in New York State.
It’s not just lawsuits over how much vanilla flavoring is in vanilla ice cream whetting trial lawyer appetites. ILR’s report found other types of food-related litigation are on the rise, including what’s known as “greenwashing” litigation.
“Greenwashing” litigation is the latest trend for trial lawyers looking for a big pay day. They file lawsuits over a company’s eco-friendly practices, claiming the company isn’t living up to the commitments advertised on social media or its website.
Ben & Jerry’s is well known for its commitments to environmental and social justice, but that didn’t stop trial lawyers from trying to get a scoop of a big settlement.
The ice cream company faced a class action over whether Ben & Jerry’s lived up to its environmental goals. The lawsuit claimed that a “happy cow” appearing on its pints and a webpage describing the company’s “Caring Dairy Standards” misled consumers into believing the milk and cream used in its products are exclusively sourced from farms participating in a special program run by the company.
While the case against Ben & Jerry’s was dismissed, many businesses aren’t as lucky. According to The Food Court, for every case dismissed by a judge, about ten are settled by the company because it’s easier and less expensive than fighting in court.
Food-related lawsuits make for a fun laugh or a good Faces of Lawsuit Abuse video, but there are real costs to frivolous lawsuits, like higher prices for consumers.
Courts should take a close look at these cases and dismiss those that strain plausibility, before the expense and risks of litigation pressure a company to settle. State legislatures can amend or reform their consumer protection laws to help fight back against abusive litigation.