Sour Decision For Plaintiffs In Extra-Sweet Pineapple Litigation
A California state appellate court has upheld the denial of class certification in a case brought by consumers alleging that Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. monopolized the extra-sweet pineapple market in violation of California Unfair Competition Law.
Del Monte was accused in Conroy v. Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. of attempting to obtain a patent for extra-sweet pineapple – despite knowing that pineapple variety was unpatentable – and then using sham patent litigation to foreclose competition and to charge supracompetitive prices.
The California Court of Appeal for the First District held that the indirect purchaser class of plaintiffs failed to show that the trial court improperly denied class certification when it decided that substantial individual questions needed to be resolved to establish injury to class members. Even if liability could have been established, the trial court held that plaintiffs did not meet their burden of showing how members of the class could be notified to participate in any kind of cost effective claims process.
In 2004, a complaint with similar allegations was filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York on behalf of direct and indirect purchasers. In 2008, the federal court certified a class of direct purchasers but refused to certify an indirect purchaser class because of issues with manageability.
In 2009, the plaintiffs in the California action moved for class certification. The trial court adopted portions of the Southern District’s decision and denied the motion.
The California appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision and held that it had acted within its discretion by finding that plaintiffs’ evidence did not overcome the manageability issued identified by the Southern District.