California-based lawsuit focused on Kerrygold cow feed dismissed

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Devonyu
© GettyImages/Devonyu

Related tags grass-fed dairy lawsuit

A lawsuit brought against Kerrygold products for allegedly misleading customers about the feeds cows producing milk for the products received has ended.

California-resident Dyami Myers-Taylor and named Ornua Foods North America and the Ornua Co-operative Limited, which produce Kerrygold products, were involved in a lawsuit​, which started in July, according to court documents. The lawsuit also sought to bring two class action complaints for others who had purchased the products either in California or throughout the US.

In the complaint, Myers-Taylor argued that he had been “misled into purchasing Kerrygold products due to false and misleading advertising.”

For several years, he bought Kerrygold dairy products, sometimes at a price premium, with the understanding based on product advertising that cows used to generate the milk for the products were only fed grass.

An Ornua spokesperson told us at the time that it thought the products were marketed “in accordance with applicable laws and regulations”​ and that the company planned to defend itself against the claims.

Judge Marilyn Huff in the US District Court in the Southern District of California said that she was granting the company’s request to dismiss the case in a ruling last month.

“The court dismisses plaintiff’s complaint without prejudice,” ​she said in her order. “The court grants plaintiff leave to amend. Plaintiff may file an amended complaint, if any, on or before March 6.”

Myers-Taylor agreed to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice last week, following the judge’s ruling.

Reacting to the the ruling and dismissal, Ornua said: “We are satisfied that the court in California accepted our position and granted our motion to have this lawsuit dismissed and we thank the court for its time."

Lawyers for Myers-Taylor did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Legal wrangling

In the lawsuit, Myers-Taylor said that he had bought several Kerrygold product during a multi-year span. He alleged that the understanding of what the cows were fed was falsely promoted by product advertising as the cows are also “fed soy, corn and other grains, among other non-grass feed, including grains that are genetically modified, and are thus not ‘grass-fed’ as advertised,”​ according to court documents.

“Rather than disclose the use of non-grass feed, as other partially grass-fed competitors do, Kerrygold deceptively implies that its products are derived from cows that are fed only grass,”​ he said in the lawsuit.

He alleged that Ornua violated “the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act [CLRA], the California False Advertising Law [FAL], the California Unfair Competition Law [UCL], breach of express warranty, breach of the implied warranty of merchantability and for fraud and negligent misrepresentation,”​ according to the complaint.

He said he would never have purchased the products if he had known that company claims regarding the diets of the cows producing the milk for the Kerrygold products included more than grass.

In its filed response, Ornua requested that the case be dismissed and said that Myers-Taylor cannot “allege, let alone prove” ​the claims being made regarding labeling and advertising of butter as “natural”​ or using “milk from grass-fed cows” ​were false – or that other consumers share those views, according to court documents.

“Plaintiff cannot demonstrate that other consumers share his unreasonable and implausible interpretation that ‘Milk From Grass-Fed Cows’ means that the cows never consume anything but grass, or that consuming a little grain makes milk from the cows anything other than ‘Natural,’”​ according to case documents. “Plaintiff speculates that some of the grain might be bioengineered. However, as a matter of law under the legal definitions adopted by Congress as part of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standards, and under prior court precedent, even if certain cows may have consumed such grain, milk from the cows is not bioengineered.”

The plaintiff alleged that he “suffered some unspecified economic damage”​ from buying butter made from milk produced by cows that may have eaten some grain, according to court documents.

However, he fails to bring the facts needed to support his claims, according to court documents. “Such as which labels or advertisements he relied upon, which butter products he actually purchased, or the amounts he allegedly paid as a price premium for those products.”

Dismissal details

The lawsuit was dismissed for points including that it failed to state a claim “upon which relief can be granted,” the judge said in her order.

Myers-Taylor alleged claims including “(1) violations of California’s UCL, FAL, and CLRA; (2) fraud; (3) negligent misrepresentation; (4) unjust enrichment; and (5) breach of express warranty,”​ according to court documents.

However, the judge agreed with the company’s requested dismissal and found that there was no claim.

Regarding the suggestion that the company had violated California’s UCL, FAL and CLRA regarding advertising practices, the court found that “a reasonable consumer could not be led to believe that plaintiff’s interpretation that defendants’ products are derived from cows that are fed 100% grass.”

The product packaging says that milk used to make the Kerrygold products comes from cows fed grass, not cows fed only grass or 100% grass, according to the case documents.

Regarding the allegation that the company committed fraud or negligent misrepresentation, the judge also dismissed the claim because the company does not state that its products are made from milk produced by cows fed only grass, according to court documents. A claim of “unjust enrichment’ also failed because Myers-Taylor failed to demonstrate fraudulent or “misleading labeling.”

“Plaintiff received a butter product that was derived from cows that were grass-fed,”​ according to the order. “Defendant did not make any warranty that the products were derived from cows that were fed only grass. Plaintiff could not have reasonably relied on Defendants’ representations to infer that the cows were fed only grass. Accordingly, the Court dismisses Plaintiff’s claim for breach of express warranty.”

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