According to Bloomberg, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Pom Wonderful in its long-running false advertising dispute with the Coca-Cola Co., a decision that could open the door to more litigation against food makers for deceptive labeling. The justices ruled 8-0 that Pom can go forward with a lawsuit alleging the label on a Pomegranate Blueberry beverage offered by Coke’s Minute Maid unit is misleading because 99% of the drink is apple and grape juice.
Lower courts had ruled in favor of Coke because the label conforms to the law and to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules. The FDA regulates beverage labels, and it allows companies to name drinks using the juices that provide the flavor even if they don’t provide the volume. However, Pom sued Coke in 2008 under the Lanham Act, which prohibits false and misleading statements about a product and can be invoked only by companies, not consumers. Lower courts had ruled that Pom couldn’t sue because the FDA’s rules supersede other claims. But the Supreme Court reversed, finding that the juice label may technically comply with FDA rules but may still mislead consumers for different reasons.
In a separate case, the federal government has filed a deceptive advertising case against Pom for claiming that its pomegranate juice can treat or prevent heart disease, prostate cancer, and other illnesses. The Federal Trade Commission’s action is pending at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.