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Reed v. General Mills Inc.

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

June 13, 2019

BRUCH REED, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GENERAL MILLS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 15) and motion to stay discovery (Dkt. No. 33). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby DENIES the motions for the reasons explained herein.

         I.BACKGROUND

         This is a putative class action where Plaintiffs are consumers from across the nation who purchased certain Cascadian Farms products (the “Products”) from a variety of retailers. (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants marketed and sold the Products in a fashion that caused Plaintiffs to believe that the Products were produced on a farm in Washington, when in fact they were not.[1] (Id.) If not for this incorrect belief, Plaintiffs allege that they either would not have purchased, or paid for less for, Defendants' Products. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs allege that 92 different Products are deceptive.[2] (Id. at 7-10.) The Products' allegedly deceptive packaging includes the brand name "Cascadian Farm," a Skagit Valley emblem, and a picturesque, rural background. (See Id. at 12-13.) Defendants allege that most of the Products' packaging contains appropriate disclaimers or disclosures-either indicating that the Products have outgrown their home farm in Washington or indicating the Products' true origin. (See Dkt. No. 15 at 26-27'.) The following is an example of one of the Product's packaging:

         (Image Omitted)

         Plaintiffs bring claims for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, violations of Washington's Consumer Protection Act and “Similar Laws Throughout the United States, ” and unjust enrichment. (Dkt. No. 1 at 54-69.) Defendants move to dismiss all of Plaintiffs' claims for failure to state a claim, on the basis that no reasonable consumer would be deceived by the Products' packaging. (Dkt. No. 15.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         The Court may dismiss a complaint that “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. at 678.

         A plaintiff is obligated to provide grounds for his or her entitlement to relief that amount to more than labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         B. Judicial Notice

         Defendants ask the Court to take judicial notice of the following documents: (1) the full packaging for the Products (“Exhibit A”); (2) the packaging for Mountain Peak Organic Blueberries (“Exhibit B”); (3) screen captures from Cascadian Farm's Instagram and Twitter accounts, captured on February 26, 2019 (“Exhibit C”); (4) a chart that splits up each named Plaintiff and includes Products purchased, the Products' ingredients, and the language on the Products' packaging about the “Home Farm” (“Exhibit D”); (5) a chart of all Products, the Products' ingredients, and language on the Products' packaging about the “Home Farm” (“Exhibit E”); (6) the trademark registration certificate for Cascadian Farm (“Exhibit F”); (7) the trademark registration certificate for Cascadian Farm Organic (“Exhibit G”); (8) screen captures from General Mills's and Cascadian Farm's websites, during the time when Plaintiffs allege they purchased the Products (“Exhibit H”); (9) screen captures from Cascadian Farm's Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, captured on February 26, 2019 (“Exhibit I”); (10) two documents downloaded from the Washington State Department of Agriculture's “Agriculture in Washington” sub-page, downloaded on February 26, 2019 (“Exhibit J”); (11) a list of data downloaded from the United States Department of Agriculture's 2012 Census webpage, downloaded on February 26, 2019 (“Exhibit K”); and (12) the full packaging of imported Products (“Exhibit L”).

         Generally, the Court may not consider material outside of the pleadings when assessing the sufficiency of a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001). There are two exceptions to this rule. First, incorporation-by-reference allows the Court to treat certain documents as though they are part of the complaint itself. Khoja v. Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc., 899 F.3d 988, 1002 (9th Cir. 2018). “The doctrine prevents plaintiffs from selecting only portions of documents that support their claims, while omitting portions of those very documents that weaken-or doom-their claims.” Id. “However, if the document merely creates a defense to the well-pled allegations in the complaint, then that document did not necessarily form the basis of the complaint.” Id. In sum, “a court may consider evidence on which the complaint necessarily relies if: (1) the complaint refers to the document; (2) the document is central to the plaintiff's claim; and (3) no party questions the authenticity of the copy attached to the 12(b)(6) motion.” Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). Second, the Court is permitted to take judicial notice of facts that are “not subject to reasonable dispute because [they] . . . can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” Fed.R.Evid. 201(b).

         1. Exhibits ...


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