Plaintiffs in the Kangadis olive oil adulteration class action lawsuit celebrated a small victory last week after a federal judge agreed to move forward on the $261 million case despite the bankruptcy of the company.
The case concerns Capatriti brand olive oil, which is marketed by Kangadis as “100% pure olive oil.” According to the claim made by the plaintiff, analysis determined that the oil in question is not olive oil at all, but olive pomace oil — a refined oil made from byproducts of the first pressing of olives, including leftover pits and pulp extracted through heat and chemical solvents. As the lowest grade of edible oil derived from olives, olive pomace oil is mostly used in the food service industry.
On Sept. 18, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York ordered the certification of the class. Certification occurs when the court finds that certain prerequisites among the plaintiffs are met, such as all plaintiffs sharing the same claim.
Rakoff previously certified the Ebin v. Kangadis case in March, but progress stopped due to the bankruptcy against Kangadis Food Inc. (KFI). The allegations have effectively been transferred to a suit against Kangadis Family Management LLC, a company owned by three Kangadis family members who are also shareholders of KFI.
The plaintiffs say that the promise of “100% pure olive oil,” printed on five sides of the Capatriti tins influenced their decision to purchase the product and that the false claim violated consumer protection laws.
Kangadis has argued against the claim due to the fact that class members are defined as “all persons in the United States who purchased Capatriti 100 percent Pure Olive Oil packed before March 1, 2013.” The company sells to retailers, not directly to consumers.
However the judge knocked that down. “Whether or not an individual purchased during the class period a tin … that actually contained pomace is about as objectively determinable a question as one can ask,” U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York wrote in the order.
Last year, the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) filed a suit against Kangadis—which conducts business under the Gourmet Factory, Capatriti and Porto names—claiming “unlawful, misleading and deceptive misbranding.” Though the NAOOA and Kangadis reached a confidential settlement in July 2013, legal fees forced the company to declare bankruptcy.