In a victory for California consumers who filed a false advertising case against Salov North America Corp, makers of the Filippo Berio brand of olive oil, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers granted class certification to those who bought any brand Filippo Berio olive oil with the exception of their organic olive oil, between May 2010 and June 2015.
The ruling was in response to the motion requesting for Class certification in May 2016.
See more: Complete Coverage of the Salov North America Class Action Case
The consumers, led by plaintiff Rohini Kumar, claim that the “Imported From Italy” statement on the front of the label of Filippo Berio brand of olive oil was deceptive and misleading to consumers.
In their case, the plaintiffs claimed that consumers buy the Filippo Berio brand of olive oil believing it to be a product of Italy, when in fact, only a small portion of the oil is from Italy.
The majority of the oil is actually a mixture of olive oils produced in Tunisia, Greece, and Spain that is shipped to Italy. The imported olive oil is blended with a small amount Italian olive oil before being bottled in Italy and labeled prominently on the front with the statement “Imported from Italy.”
In its defense, Salov claimed that a statement at the back of the olive oil bottles near the “best by” date, is a disclaimer that reveals that the olive oil originated from different countries. According to Salov, Kumar could not have missed reading the said disclaimer that was close to the date that she claimed to have read.
In her ruling, however, Judge Gonzalez Rogers, said that the court could not disregard Kumar’s testimony that she had not read the disclaimer, as Salov was suggesting.
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The judge also addressed Salov’s arguments that Kumar was not an adequate Class representative and questions regarding Kumar’s honesty and credibility due to her drunken driving conviction and personal friendship with an attorney from the firm representing her in this case.
Judge Gonzalez Rogers specified that neither the drunken driving charges nor her personal friendship with an attorney were pertinent to the present case, stating, “Kumar’s attorney friend is one of the several attorneys from multiple law firms that is representing her in the case.”
In other arguments, Salov questioned consumer memory regarding proof of purchase, price paid for the olive oil, and recall if they believed the “Imported from Italy” to mean that olive oil was made only from Italian olives. The judge addressed this issue by stating that Class members could submit proof of purchase on a class action Claim Form Affidavit.
California consumers further claim that with the “Imported from Italy” statement on their label, Salov is violating the business practice of the 1930 Tariff Act, 19 U.S.C. § 1304(a).