A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit over the lack of hazelnuts in a local company's Hazelnut Crème Coffee as a whole latte nothing because the woman who brought the suit didn't make a strong enough case on exactly how she was harmed.
Kathy Dumont, a Rhode Islander who said she bought at least one bag of Malden-based New England Coffee Co.'s Hazelnut Crème Coffee in Massachusetts, sued the company in May, alleging she never would have bought the stuff if she had known that "the Hazelnut Crème Coffee contains none of its characterizing ingredient, and instead is both artificially and naturally flavored." In her suit, she argued this is a violation of federal labeling laws and the Massachusetts consumer-protection law, and a marked contrast to the way other coffee companies - and even some of New England Coffee's "flavored" coffees - note their "artificial flavoring."
Dumont sought to become lead plaintiff in a national class-action suit with damages of at least $5 million.
But US District Court Judge Rya Zobel this week agreed with the company to pour out the suit because Dumont failed to adequately detail just how she came by to purchase the coffee in question and to adequately describe the harm done to her by buying the coffee. Or as the company put it:
Plaintiff provides no details about her alleged purchase and alleges no facts that would support the conclusion that she was deceived or suffered economic injury.
The company also raised other arguments - such as questioning why Dumont was suing over hazelnuts rather than an alleged lack of "hazelnut creme" - but Zobel limited her ruling to Dumont's weak case in espressing the alleged harm she suffered:
Beyond the allegation that "Plaintiff purchased NECC’s Hazelnut Crème Coffee" and the conclusory assertion that she “reasonably believed that the coffee contained ... hazelnut," the complaint offers insufficient detail regarding the circumstances of plaintiff’s purchase. Without more, her complaint fails to pass muster under the relevant pleading standard. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b) ("in all averments of fraud or mistake, the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake shall be stated with particularity").