Judge Denies Class Action Certification and Dismisses Lawsuit in Favor of Vita Coco

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A lawsuit brought against All Market Inc., the parent company of Vita Coco coconut water, was dismissed by a federal judge on September 26, 2018. The case revolved around Vita Coco's use of the phrase 'born in Brazil.'

“We never doubted that we would win this case,” says Vita Coco co-founder and CEO Michael Kirban. “Brazil is a part of our brand heritage, but our coconuts come from many countries across the globe in addition to Brazil."

On Wednesday, September 26, 2018 a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs against All Market Inc. ("AMI"), the parent company of Vita Coco and the largest seller of coconut water in the United States. Bilzin Sumberg represented AMI in the defense of the federal consumer fraud class action.

Filed on April 7, 2016 in the Southern District of Florida, the case styled, Joshua Wasser, Ila Gold, and Alyssa Rechtman, on behalf of themselves and all others v. All Market Inc., Case No. 16-cv-21238-JLK, revolved around AMI’s use of the phrase "born in brazil" on previous versions of Vita Coco coconut water containers. The plaintiffs claimed the phrase misled them into purchasing the product by implying that Vita Coco was exclusively manufactured in or sourced from Brazil. Vita Coco produces coconut water globally, and in addition to producing in Brazil, the company also produces in various countries in Southeast Asia. Notwithstanding the legally-compliant country of origin statement on each container of Vita Coco, the plaintiffs alleged that they were deceived by the "born in brazil" phrase and asserted that they would not have purchased Vita Coco if they had known the beverage came from a country other than Brazil. The plaintiffs brought the claims on behalf of themselves and proposed classes of Florida, New York and California consumers against AMI for unjust enrichment, injunctive relief, and violation of state and federal consumer fraud and deceptive advertising laws and sought more than $200 million in damages.

The court rejected all of the plaintiffs’ claims, including their allegations that they would be harmed in the future. Further, the court stated, "And any amount paid for those future purchases will be the result of informed decisions – not because the Plaintiffs were deceived by the 'born in brazil’ phrase as to the origin of the product." As such, the court denied the plaintiff's motion for class certification and dismissed the case.

“We never doubted that we would win this case,” says Vita Coco co-founder and CEO Michael Kirban. “Brazil is a part of our brand heritage, but our coconuts come from many countries across the globe in addition to Brazil. Not only is this is something we’re proud of and very vocal about, it is clearly stated on each and every container of our coconut water. Baseless claims such as this are a distraction and financial burden to small, independent companies like ours that are trying to offer high-quality products to consumers, while also making a positive impact on the world we live in and for us, in particular, the communities we source from. That is why we have and will continue to vigorously defend ourselves against unfounded class action suits.”

AMI was represented by Bilzin Sumberg litigation attorneys Melissa Pallett-Vasquez and Lori Lustrin, Scott Voelz and Hannah Chanoine of O'Melveny & Myers LLP, and AMI’s General Counsel, Joe Rubbone.

About Vita Coco®
Vita Coco is the leading coconut water brand and is credited with popularizing coconut water, globally. The idea to start Vita Coco was literally ‘born in Brazil.’ Back in 2003, future Vita Coco co-founders Michael Kirban and Ira Liran were at a New York City bar where they met two women from Brazil. Within months, Liran moved to Brazil to marry one of the women and invited Kirban to visit. On that visit both men saw the popularity of coconut water and realized the potential for a beverage business in the US. That idea came to them both on the beaches of Búzios, and Vita Coco was born.

With the first batch of Vita Coco produced in 2004, Kirban and Liran marketed their coconut water as a lifestyle beverage, successfully making what was once an obscure beverage in the ‘ethnic foods’ aisle into one of the most successful beverages of the decade. Today, Vita Coco is the US sales leader in coconut water and is sold in 30 countries around the world.

Vita Coco produces its coconut water in Brazil and Southeast Asia, and through the brand’s social responsibility initiative, the “Vita Coco Project: Give, Grow, Guide,” underwrites and develops community and agricultural improvements in the countries in which is produces its drinks. For more information, please visit http://www.vitacoco.com

About Bilzin Sumberg
Bilzin Sumberg works with clients whose business and legal opportunities and challenges span the United States and cross borders to Europe, Latin America, Canada, the Middle East, and Asia. Bilzin Sumberg lawyers concentrate on services at the heart of both regional and international commerce, including business litigation, real estate, land development and government relations, environmental, corporate law, joint ventures, domestic and international tax and estate planning, finance, and public-private partnerships. Bilzin Sumberg’s litigation team handles a broad spectrum of matters including complex class action defense, opt out antitrust class actions, financial services litigation, and complex contract disputes in both state and federal courts throughout the country and in international tribunals. The team regularly provides thought commentary and analysis of top-of-mind issues confronting the food and beverage industry—including product labeling and consumer product class actions—on its blog http://www.foodcourtlaw.com.

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