United States District Court, S.D. New York
LORI D. GORDON, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
THE HAIN CELESTIAL GROUP, INC. and JASON NATURAL PRODUCTS, INC., Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
KATHERINE B. FORREST, District Judge
a putative consumer class action against defendants The Hain
Celestial Group, Inc. (“Hain Celestial”) and its
subsidiary Jason Natural Products, Inc. (“Jason
Natural”), which manufacture, market and sell natural
personal care products. (First Am. Compl. (hereinafter, the
“FAC”) (ECF No. 28) ¶¶ 1, 3; see
also id. ¶¶ 7, 11.) Plaintiff claims
defendants deceptively marketed five of their products (which
she allegedly purchased) as lacking sodium lauryl sulfate
(“SLS”), an allegedly irritating chemical
compound. (Id. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff's claims are
cast as negligent misrepresentation, breach of express
warranty, unjust enrichment, and violations of New York's
False Advertising Law (N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law. §§ 350
et seq.) and New York's Deceptive Trade
Practices Act (N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law. §§ 349 et
seq.). (See id. ¶¶ 30-65.)
before the Court is defendants' partial motion to dismiss
the FAC under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF
No. 32.) Defendants make various arguments in support of
dismissal of certain claims and relief: (1) that the
negligent misrepresentation claim is barred by the economic
loss doctrine; (2) that the unjust enrichment claim is
duplicative of other claims; (3) failure to allege any causes
of action against Hain Celestial; (4) lack of standing to
seek injunctive relief; and (5) that plaintiff's
nationwide class allegations are deficient on their face.
(See ECF No. 33 at 6-7.)
as to Jason Natural, defendants have only sought to dismiss
the negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment claims.
The Court grants this portion of the motion, leaving the
breach of express warranty, false advertising and deceptive
trade practices claims pending against Jason Natural.
Defendants have, on the other hand, moved to dismiss all
claims against Hain Celestial, arguing that the FAC
disregards the corporate separateness between the two
defendants and only plausibly alleges misconduct by Jason
Natural. Whether by oversight or design, the FAC often does
not distinguish between the two defendants and misattributes
statements on Jason Natural's website to Hain Celestial.
At least one key factual allegation, however, prevents Hain
Celestial's dismissal entirely: the allegation that Hain
Celestial “manufactures and sells natural health and
beauty products under the Jason Natural brand”. (FAC
¶ 3.) The Court must, on this Rule 12(b)(6) motion,
accept this allegation as true.
absence of the allegation in paragraph 3-that Hain Celestial
itself manufactures and sells Jason Natural brand
products-the other “group” allegations would be
insufficient. But that allegation-though thin a reed as can
be-saves certain claims from dismissal at this stage. (The
Court invites an early summary judgment motion with respect
to whether Hain Celestial in fact itself manufactures and
sells the Jason Natural products at issue here.)
may ultimately prove correct that Hain Celestial was not
directly involved in any established mislabeling of the
products as SLS-free. It could be, for example, that Jason
Natural in fact manufactures and sells the products at issue,
and that Hain Celestial is merely the parent. Nevertheless,
at this early stage, and accepting all allegations as true,
the Court concludes that plaintiff's claims for breach of
express warranty, false advertising and deceptive trade
practices against Hain Celestial must survive. The Court
further finds that plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts
to support injunctive relief, and thus that portion of the
motion is granted. Finally, the Court declines to strike the
class allegations on the basis of prematurity.
reasons set forth below, defendants' partial motion to
dismiss is GRANTED in PART and DENIED in PART.
specifically alleges that Hain Celestial manufactures and
sells natural personal care products under the brand names
Jason Natural and Earth's Best, among others.
(Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff also specifically alleges
that Hain Celestial and Jason Natural are distinct corporate
entities; no allegations clearly establish the relationship
between the two or differentiate the defendants' roles
vis-à-vis the Jason Natural products at issue in this
litigation. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 21.)
Lori D. Gordon is an alleged purchaser of five Jason Natural
brand products (the “Products”): (1) Long &
Strong Jojoba Pure Natural Shampoo; (2) Volumizing Lavender
Shampoo; (3) Normalizing Tea Tree Treatment Shampoo; (4)
Dandruff Relief 2 in 1 Treatment Shampoo & Conditioner;
and (5) Smoothing Coconut Body Wash. (Id.
¶¶ 6, 8.) Plaintiff allegedly purchased these
Products on a regular basis from November 2012 to March 2016
from retailers in New York and Connecticut. (Id.
¶ 8.) Plaintiff alleges that “Defendants”
market, advertise, produce, supply, promote and sell the
Products. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 11.)
alleges “the companies have long claimed” their
products do not contain SLS, an alleged eye, skin and
respiratory irritant. (Id. ¶¶ 2-3.) For
instance, pictures of the Products attached to the FAC show
that each bears a label stating, “NO . . . SLS”.
(Id., Ex. A at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10; see also id.
¶ 6.) She further alleges she purchased the Products
after reading and relying upon these labels and “for
the express purpose of avoiding coming into contact with
SLS” and its “dangerous side effects”.
(Id. ¶ 8.) Nevertheless, plaintiff asserts
that, from 2011 to 2016, defendants misleadingly produced,
supplied, marketed and sold their Products as being free of
SLS, even though they knew or should have known this was not
true. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 7, 11.)
March 10, 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported
that it had commissioned two independent laboratories to test
for SLS in several consumer products containing sodium coco
sulfate (“SCS”) (id. ¶ 4 n.7), a
compound plaintiff alleges to be a “blend of cleaning
agents that contains about 50% SLS” (id.
¶ 5). The laboratories identified SLS in Hain
Celestial's Earth Best baby shampoo. (Id. ¶
4 n.7.) This shampoo was the only Hain Celestial or Jason
Natural product tested in the study or reported on by the
Wall Street Journal. (Id.)
alleges that, “In response to these test results, Hain
Celestial has argued that it does not add SLS to its
Products; instead it uses sodium coco sulfate
(‘SCS')” (id. ¶ 5), and that
“Hain Celestial now acknowledges that there may be some
amount of sodium lauryl sulfate contained in some of our
surfactant products as a constituent of the sodium coco
sulfate” (id. ¶ 6 (internal quotation
marks omitted)). Although plaintiff attributes these
representations to Hain Celestial, the footnotes accompanying
the allegations cite to a Jason Natural website. (See
id. ¶¶ 5 n.9 (citing
http://www.jason-personalcare.com/faq), 6 n. 12 (same).)
Citing the same website, plaintiff further alleges that,
“[a]t present, the company claims it is in the process
of removing SLS-free claims from the Products'
packaging.” (Id. ¶ 6 n.13 (citing
alleges that if the Products were not misleadingly labeled,
she and the other putative class members either would not
have purchased them or would have paid less for them.
(Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff further alleges that, in
this scenario, she personally would not have purchased the
Products. (Id. ¶ 8.)
commenced this action on August 17, 2016. At an initial
pretrial conference held on October 26, 2016, counsel for
defendants indicated defendants' intended to move to
dismiss the complaint and outlined the likely bases on which
they would move. (Transcript of Proceedings Held on October
26, 2016 (“IPTC Tr.”, ECF No. 30) 7:4-8:13.)
Counsel for plaintiff indicated plaintiff would likely
respond by seeking to amend the complaint. (Id.
8:17-9:19; 9:20-10:20.) Accordingly, the Court set a briefing
schedule for plaintiff to amend the complaint and for
defendants to move to dismiss the amended complaint.
(See ECF No. 26.) The Court indicated that it would
entertain only one set of motion practice at the motion to