Maria Jhai Reviews Significant Cases in Food Law

Munger, Tolles & Olson attorney Maria Jhai co-authored an article for the 2018 edition of California Litigation Review that highlights the most significant cases in food law from 2017.

Ms. Jhai and co-authors Christopher Van Gundy and Shalini Dagra note that food litigation continues to be a red-hot area of law in California, thanks to a “perfect storm” of the reasonable-consumer standard, the market power of small-company disruptors and the trend of larger food companies buying or mimicking those disruptors. Ms. Jhai and her co-authors review several cases that encapsulate the sustained growth of the food law segment, including:

  • A federal jury decision demonstrating the importance of new technologies in identifying liability in the food supply chain.
  • A decision to certify a class of consumers claiming deception over the labeling of “extra virgin” olive oil, illustrating the challenges involved in establishing food fraud liability and related class certification issues.
  • Cases challenging representations on labels such as “fresh pressed” and “cold pressed,” “natural,” “almond milk,” “0g Trans Fat” and “Made with All Natural Ingredients.”
  • A Ninth Circuit decision involving the City and County of San Francisco’s ordinance on sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • A lawsuit claiming that a candy company used non-functional “slack-fill” in their cardboard packaging, misleading consumers as to the amount of candy product inside.
  • A published 9th Circuit decision categorically rejecting “administrative feasibility” as an element of class certification, a defense that had appeared especially promising for food companies.

Ms. Jhai’s practice is focused on complex civil litigation, with a particular emphasis on class actions and trial work. She speaks and writes regularly on various litigation topics, including food litigation.