Cardinale v. Quorn Foods, Inc, Slip Copy, 2010 WL 1332551 (D. Conn. Mar 31, 2010) (No. CIVA 3:09-CV-1660JCH).

The Court remanded the nation-wide class action to state court holding that since the defendant did not directly distribute its food products, it was not able to identify consumers to account for nearly one-sixth of its sales to meet the $5 million threshold.

Kathy Cardinale, brought an actionin Connecticut state court, individually and on behalf of all persons in the United States who purchased any Quorn product in the last three years. She alleged injuries stemming from the consumption of Quorn products, and she sought damages for those injuries asserting violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and restitution for the purchase of those products.  Cardinale alleged that although Quorn products contained warnings about well-known allergens, the labels did not include warnings related to the Quorn-specific fungus, and without knowing these risks, Cardinale became ill as a result of consuming Quorn’s frozen meatless food products.  Cardinale sought monetary damages of an amount less than $2,500 for her ascertainable loss, but did not seek relief for any claims for economic or personal injury that any member of the class might assert against Quorn.  

The defendant Quorn Foods, Inc., removed this action to federal court pursuant to CAFA’s diversity jurisdiction. 

Upon Cardinale’s motion to remand, the District Court remanded the action to state court holding that Quorn did not establish that that there was a reasonable probability that the aggregate claims of the class were in excess of $5 million.

First, the Court found that although Cardinale defined a nation-wide class, the complaint specifically stated that she did not seek damages on behalf of other class members, but instead only sought damages for herself; thus it could not be construed that she sought damages on behalf of the class. Tricky, tricky Kathy.

Second, the Court observed that although Cardinale sought restitution on behalf of class members as well as herself, the amount of restitution would not exceed $5 million because she only sought restitution for other class members whose identities Quorn knew or could ascertain, and not for the entire class of consumers that purchased Quorn products over the course of the past three years.  Again, tricky, tricky, Kathy.

The Court remarked that even upon considering the sales figure of Quorn for the class period–over $33 million in gross, and over $ 29 million, net—there was no reasonable probability that that the aggregate class claims under Count Two—for restitution would exceed $5 million. The Court stated that to meet the $5 million threshold, Quorn should identify consumers to account for nearly one-sixth of its sales. But, it was exceedingly unlikely that Quorn knew or could ascertain the identities of a significant number of the consumers because products were not distributed directly by Quorn.

Finally, although in a similar case, Goodman v. Whole Foods Market, Inc. and Quorn Foods, Inc., No. A-05-CA-422-LY (W.D. Tex. Aug. 26, 2005), the Texas district court had denied a motion to remand; the Court found that Goodman was inapposite here. The Court noted that unlike in this case, in Goodman, the defendant was a retailer, who had a direct contractual relationship with the class members, and was thus more likely to be able to ascertain the identities of a sufficient number of consumers such that there was a reasonable probability that the amount in controversy would be met.