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Water & Sanitation Health, Inc. v. Chiquita Brands International, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 22, 2014



RICHARD A. JONES, District Judge.


This matter comes before the court on defendant Chiquita Brands International, Inc.'s motion to dismiss. Dkt. 7. Plaintiff Water and Sanitation Health, Inc. alleges claims for (1) unjust enrichment, (2) unfair and deceptive business practices under the Consumer Protection Act ("CPA"), (3) breach of contract, (4) breach of implied or express warranties, (5) negligent misrepresentation, and (6) declaratory and injunctive relief. Dkt. 1-1. Plaintiff does not oppose dismissal of its breach of contract and breach of implied warranties claims. Dkt. 11 at 5 n.1. Accordingly, the court DISMISSES plaintiff's breach of contract and implied warranty claims.

Having reviewed the memoranda and complaint, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part defendant's motion.[1]


Defendant is one of the world's largest producer and marketer of fruits and vegetables. Dkt. #1-1 (Compl.) ¶ 2. Defendant purchases millions of pounds of bananas per year, including from a company named COBIGUA in Guatemala. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. Defendant made a number of web-based marketing representations regarding its environmentally safe business practices, including, among others, that it protects water sources by reforesting all affected natural watercourses, using solid waste traps at all packaging stations to keep rivers and streams clean, and planting cover crops in all drainage ditches of banana farms rather than allowing chemical weed control. Dkt. 1-1 ¶¶ 38, 43.

Plaintiff is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing sustainable cleanwater systems to people in impoverished villages around the world. Id. at 5:2-3. Plaintiff avoids purchasing food products from companies that destroy clean-water systems in impoverished villages. Id. at 5:3-5. Plaintiff relied on defendant's web-based marketing and representations regarding environmentally safe practices before purchasing bananas bearing defendant's labels. Id. ¶¶ 54-56. Plaintiff later learned that the community in which COBIGUA produced Chiquita bananas had chemicals contaminating the drinking water from large scale, mono-culture banana production. Id. ¶¶ 60-62. Had plaintiff known that defendant's representations regarding environmentally safe practices were false or misleading and contrary to its mission, they would not have purchased the Chiquita bananas. Id. ¶¶ 65-66.

Plaintiff's law suit arises out of defendant's allegedly false or misleading marketing and advertising regarding its environmentally safe practices.


A. Legal Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "the court is to take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and to draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the plaintiff." Wyler Summit P'ship v. Turner Broadcasting Sys., Inc., 135 F.3d 658, 663 (9th Cir. 1998). However, the complaint must indicate more than mere speculation of a right to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "[F]or a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the non-conclusory factual content, ' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief." Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Dismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

B. Unjust Enrichment

Unjust enrichment is the method of recovery for the value of the benefit retained absent any contractual relationship because notions of fairness and justice require it. Young v. Young, 164 Wn.2d 477, 484, 191 P.3d 1258 (Wn. 2008). To state a claim for unjust enrichment under Washington law, plaintiff must allege (1) a benefit conferred upon the defendant by the plaintiff (2) "an appreciation or knowledge by the defendant of the benefit[, ]" and (3) the acceptance or retention by the defendant of the benefit under such circumstances as to make it inequitable for the defendant to retain the benefit without the payment of its value. Id.

Defendant argues that plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim should be dismissed because plaintiff fails to allege any facts demonstrating an "appreciation or knowledge" of any benefit conferred.[2] Dkt. 7 at 6-7. Plaintiff argues that it "has alleged that it paid money to purchase Chiquita's bananas, and that Chiquita received at least part of that money as revenue." Dkt. 11 at 14. Plaintiff also argues that it has alleged that "Chiquita acquired that benefit by making false representations of fact regarding the environmental circumstances under ...

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