ORDER GRANTING TARGET CORPORATION'S MOTION TO DISMISS
JAMES I. COHN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Reyna Guerrero ("Plaintiff") filed a purported class action complaint
Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and all similarly situated Florida consumers, brings claims against Defendant for violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, Fla. Stat. §§ 501.201-501.213 ("FDUTPA") (Count I) and unjust enrichment (Count II). Defendant has now moved to dismiss, arguing that the Complaint should be dismissed because (1) it fails to meet Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b)'s heightened pleading standard; (2) Plaintiff lacks standing to bring these claims; (3) FDUPTA's safe harbor provision precludes Plaintiff's claims; and (4) Plaintiff's claims are preempted by federal law. See generally Motion. Plaintiff opposes the Motion.
A. Legal Standard.
A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) encompasses both challenges based on the court's lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction and challenges based on lack of standing. Stalley v. Orlando Reg'l Healthcare Sys., Inc., 524 F.3d 1229, 1232 (11th Cir.2008) ("Because standing is jurisdictional, a dismissal for lack of standing has the same effect as a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)." (internal quotations omitted)); see also Holy Cross Hosp., Inc. v. Baskot, No. 10-62133-CIV, 2010 WL 5418999, at *2 (S.D.Fla. Dec. 23, 2010) ("Standing is jurisdictional in nature; therefore, Defendants proceeded under Rule 12(b)(1) to dismiss Count I for lack of standing."). A claim cannot proceed in federal court if the plaintiff does not have standing. Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Am. United for Separation of Church & State, 454 U.S. 464, 471, 102 S.Ct. 752, 70 L.Ed.2d 700 (1982).
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court shall grant a motion to dismiss where, based upon a dispositive issue of law, the factual allegations of the complaint cannot support the asserted cause of action. Glover v. Liggett Grp., Inc., 459 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir.2006). Indeed, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Thus, a complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to `state a claim
Nonetheless, a complaint must be liberally construed, assuming the facts alleged therein as true and drawing all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. A complaint should not be dismissed simply because the court is doubtful that the plaintiff will be able to prove all of the necessary factual allegations. Id. Accordingly, a well pleaded complaint will survive a motion to dismiss "`even if it appears that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'" Id. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955.
Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claims fail because she lacks standing to assert them. Motion at 8. Specifically, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff cannot allege an injury in fact "merely by claiming that the honey she purchased was composed of something different from what she expected." Id. at 9. In response, Plaintiff argues that Defendant has conflated the test for standing with the test for proving actual damages under FDUTPA. Response at 6. Plaintiff contends that, at this stage of the proceedings, she need only "generally allege[ ] that she has been injured and suffered damages." Id. Plaintiff argues that she has met this burden because the Complaint alleges that she did not receive the product she thought she had purchased and that she would not have purchased the product if she knew that it did not contain pollen. Id. at 6-7.
The constitutional standing analysis requires a plaintiff to demonstrate that: (1) the plaintiff suffered an injury in fact; (2) the injury was causally connected to the defendant's action; and (3) the injury will be redressed by a judgment in the plaintiff's favor. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992). Here, Plaintiff has alleged (1) that she purchased a product labeled "honey;" (2) the product that she purchased was not honey under Florida law; (3) and that she suffered damages as a result of this misrepresentation. Compl. 42-44. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that she did not receive the health benefits of pollen or "the organoleptic, physiochemical or microscopic properties of the floral or plant source contained on the label." Id. 43. At this stage of the proceedings, the Court agrees with Plaintiff that she has sufficiently alleged an injury in fact. See Cardenas v. NBTY, Inc., 870 F.Supp.2d 984, 990-91 (E.D.Cal. 2012) (finding that allegations that plaintiff had injury in fact sufficient to establish Article III standing where plaintiff alleged that she relied on representations on packaging of product and that she lost money on the ineffective product).
The Court is unpersuaded by Defendant's reliance upon Medley v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos., No. 10-cv-02291, 2011 WL 159674 (D.N.J. Jan. 18, 2011).
C. Sufficiency of the Pleading.
Defendant also contends that the Complaint should be dismissed because Plaintiff "does not adequately plead that the honey she alleges she purchased from Target was not `honey' under any standard" and the allegations are conclusory. Motion at 6. Additionally, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's FDUTPA claim fails to plead fraud with particularity as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b). Id. at 7. Finally, Defendant argues that because Plaintiff's FDUTPA claim fails to state a claim, her unjust enrichment claim also fails. Plaintiff disagrees that she is required to plead her FDUTPA claim with particularity under Rule 9(b). Response at 3. Plaintiff also contends that her FDUTPA claim meets the standard of Rule 8 and that she is entitled to plead an unjust enrichment claim in the alternative. Id. at 5. The Court will address each of these arguments below.
1. Plaintiff is Not Required to Plead Her FDUTPA Claim With Particularity.
Generally "[t]he requirements of Rule 9(b) do not apply to claims under the
2. As Currently Plead, Plaintiff' Fails to State a FDUTPA Claim.
Defendant contends that the Complaint should be dismissed because Plaintiff does not offer any factual support for her allegation that the honey purchased from Target does not contain pollen. Motion at 6. Additionally, Defendant argues that the Complaint fails to plead that the honey the Plaintiff purchased "was not `honey' under any standard." Id. In opposition, Plaintiff contends that under Iqbal, the Court "may and `should assume [the] veracity,'" of Plaintiff's allegation that the honey she purchased did not contain pollen. Response at 5 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937).
To state a claim under FDUTPA, a party must allege (1) a deceptive act or unfair practice; (2) causation; and (3) actual damages. Galstaldi, 637 F.Supp.2d at 1056. "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions." Mills v. Foremost Ins. Co., 511 F.3d 1300, 1303 (11th Cir.2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955). Rather, a plaintiff must "plead[ ] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937. Here, Plaintiff's FDUTPA claim is premised on the fact that the honey sold by Defendant did not contain pollen as required by Florida's Honey Standard. See Compl. ¶¶ 37, 43, 62. The Complaint fails to provide any more specific details regarding how Plaintiff knows that Defendant's honey did not contain pollen. Thus, the Court agrees with Defendant's argument that Plaintiff's Complaint, as currently plead, fails to state a claim because it does not provide fair notice to Defendant regarding the factual basis for Plaintiff's claim.
3. Whether Plaintiff States an Unjust Enrichment Claim.
Defendant also argues that Plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim fails because it is based on the same conduct as her FDUTPA claim. Response at 8. In opposition, Plaintiff contends that she is permitted to allege an unjust enrichment claim in the alternative to her FDUTPA claim. Response at 5. The Court disagrees and will dismiss the unjust enrichment claim with prejudice.
Unjust enrichment is an equitable doctrine. "Liability in unjust enrichment has in principle nothing to do with fault. It has to do with wealth being in one person's hands when it should be in another person's." Guyana Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Melbourne Int'l Comms., Ltd., 329 F.3d 1241, 1245 n. 3 (11th Cir.2003). The doctrine applies only where (1) the plaintiff conferred a benefit on the defendant, who had knowledge of the benefit; (2) the defendant voluntarily accepted and retained the benefit; and (3) under the circumstances, it would be inequitable for the defendant to retain the benefit without paying for it. See Shands Teaching Hosp. & Clinics, Inc. v. Beech St. Corp., 899 So.2d 1222, 1227 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.2005).
The Court must dismiss Plaintiff's claim for unjust enrichment because she does not lack an adequate legal remedy. See Prohias v. Pfizer, Inc., 490 F.Supp.2d 1228, 1236 (S.D.Fla.2007) (dismissing unjust enrichment claim premised upon misrepresentations about a product's qualities) (citing Am. Honda Motor Co. v. Motorcycle Info. Network, Inc., 390 F.Supp.2d 1170, 1178 (M.D.Fla. 2005) ("It is well settled in Florida that unjust enrichment is an equitable remedy and is, therefore, not available where there is an adequate legal remedy.")). Despite Plaintiff's contention that her unjust enrichment claim is an alternative to her FDUTPA claim, Plaintiff seeks recovery for the exact same wrongful conduct as in her FDUTPA claim. Compl. ¶¶ 70-76. Thus, if Defendant's sale of honey was deceptive, misleading or unlawful, causing damage to Plaintiff, she has an adequate remedy under Florida law. See Prohias, 490 F.Supp.2d at 1236 (citing Am. Honda Motor Co., 390 F.Supp.2d at 1178 ("The [d]efendants' quasi contract claim is predicated on the same set of allegations supporting their claims under FUTSA and FDUTPA. Accordingly, because an adequate remedy exists at law, the Defendants have not stated a claim upon which relief may be
D. Plaintiff's Claims Do Not Fall Within FDUTPA's Safe Harbor Provision.
Defendant also argues that Plaintiff's claims fail because the honey Defendant sold was labeled in accordance with both federal and state law and, thus, falls within FDUTPA's safe harbor provision. Motion at 11. Plaintiff disagrees arguing that (1) Defendant's safe harbor argument reaches outside the four corners of the complaint; (2) federal law does not provide a safe harbor; and (3) state law does not provide a safe harbor. Response at 8-12.
FDUTPA provides that it does not apply to "[a]n act or practice required or specifically permitted by federal or state law." Fla. Stat. § 501.212(1). In Prohias v. AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, L.P., 958 So.2d 1054, 1056 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.2007), the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of a complaint after holding that certain promotional and advertising activities fell within FDUPTA's safe harbor provision because the specific act or practice complained of was "specifically permitted" by federal law. 958 So.2d at 1056. For the reasons discussed below, the Court is unconvinced that Defendant's sale of honey falls within FDUTPA's safe harbor.
1. Whether Defendant's Honey Falls Within the FDUTPA Safe Harbor Under Federal Law.
Defendant argues that federal law permits honey to be labeled and sold as honey with or without pollen. Motion at 12. Because federal law "permits" honey that does not contain pollen to be labeled as USDA Grade A honey, Defendant contends that its honey falls within FDUTPA's safe harbor provision. Id. (citing 50 Fed.Reg. 15861). Plaintiff disputes this, arguing that while the Court may take judicial notice of other standards and regulations, it cannot, at the motion to dismiss stage, assume that Defendant's honey meets those standards. Response at 8. Moreover, Plaintiff contends that this voluntary standard was repealed in 1995 and thus cannot be "an act or practice required or permitted by federal" law. Id. at 8-9.
Prohias, 490 F.Supp.2d at 1233-34. Thus, it is likewise appropriate here, where Plaintiff has affirmatively alleged that the honey Defendant sold was deceptive and misleading because it did not contain pollen, for the Court to determine whether federal or state law allows pollen-less honey to be sold as honey.
The Court also disagrees with Plaintiff's argument that the voluntary nature of the honey standard means that it cannot serve as the basis for application of the FDUTPA safe harbor. See Response at 9. An act "permitted" by federal law necessarily encompasses voluntary standards. Of more immediate concern to the Court, however, is whether the voluntary honey standard is still enacted. In both its Reply and during the August 31, 2012 oral argument, Defendant failed to address Plaintiff's argument that these 1985 honey regulations were repealed in 1995. For the reasons discussed below, the Court concludes that the 1985 United States Standards For Grades of Extracted Honey, 50 Fed.Reg. 15861 (Apr. 23, 1985)
In 1995, the USDA removed "most of the voluntary U.S. grade standards and other selected regulations covering a number of agricultural commodities (dairy products)" from the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"). 60 Fed.Reg. 62172 (Dec. 4, 1995). The United States Standards for Grades of Extracted Honey were among the voluntary standards removed from the CFR. Id. (removing from CFR "52.1391-1420 Subpart — United States Standards for Grades of Extracted Honey"). Given that the U.S. grade standards for honey were removed from the CFR, the Court doubts whether they can serve as "[a]n act or practice required or specifically
2. Whether Defendant's Honey Falls Within the FDUTPA Safe Harbor Under Florida Law.
Defendant also contends that its honey meets the standard for honey set forth in Florida Statute § 586.02(7). Motion at 12. Defendant contends that the Florida Honey Standard, Florida Administrative Code Rule 5k-4.027, is unlawful because it "impermissibly enlarge[s] the scope of liability under Florida Statute section 586.025(s) by making it unlawful to label and sell `honey' that meets the definition of § 586.02(7)." Id. at 13 (emphasis in original). Plaintiff disagrees, arguing that (1) Defendant has failed to exhaust its administrative remedies and that (2) the Florida Department of Agriculture has been given the power to establish a standard of identity for honey. Response at 12.
Florida Statute § 586.02(8) defines honey as "the natural food product resulting from the harvest of nectar or honeydew by honeybees and the natural activities of the honeybees in processing nectar or honeydew." Fla. Stat. § 586.02(8).
It is apparent to the Court that the Florida Honey Standard was not promulgated solely under the rulemaking provisions contained within the Florida Honey Certification and Honeybee Law, Fla. Stat. § 586.10. As pointed out by Plaintiff, the
Fla. Stat. § 500.09(1)(b) (emphasis added). Additionally, an Administrative Code rule entitled "Adulteration and Misbranding-Honey," Fla. Admin. Code r. 5K-4.028, references both the Florida Food Safety Act and the Florida Honey Certification and Honeybee Law. Given that the Florida Food Safety Act expressly permits the Department of Agriculture to create a standard of identity for food products such as honey and that the Florida Honey Certification and Honeybee Law, while defining honey
E. Plaintiff's Claims Are Not Preempted by Federal Law.
Finally, Defendant argues that federal law, namely the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act ("FDCA"), 21 U.S.C. §§ 301-399d, as modified by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, 21 U.S.C. § 341 ("NLEA"), expressly preempts the Florida Honey Standard. Motion at 14. Plaintiff rejects this argument because "[n]othing in the FDCA or the NLEA evidences a `clear and manifest intention' by Congress" to preempt "the states' historic ability to create standards of identity for food where the FDA has
The doctrine of federal preemption derives from the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2, which invalidates state laws that "interfere with, or are contrary to, federal law." Hillsborough Cnty. v. Automated Med. Labs., Inc., 471 U.S. 707, 712, 105 S.Ct. 2371, 85 L.Ed.2d 714 (1985) (quoting Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1, 9 Wheat. 1, 6 L.Ed. 23 (1824)). Federal law preempts state law when there is "express preemption, field preemption, and implied conflict preemption." Holk v. Snapple Beverage Corp., 575 F.3d 329, 334 (3d Cir.2009) (citing Hillsborough Cnty., 471 U.S. at 713, 105 S.Ct. 2371). "Health and safety issues have traditionally fallen within the province of state regulation. This is true of the regulation of food and beverage labeling and branding." Holk, 575 F.3d at 334. In areas of traditional state regulation such as food and beverage labeling, "a presumption against preemption exists." Id. (citing Cipollone v. Liggett Grp., Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 516, 112 S.Ct. 2608, 120 L.Ed.2d 407 (1992)); see also Smith v. CSX Transp., Inc., 381 Fed.Appx. 885, 886 (11th Cir.2010). "[W]hen the text of a pre-emption clause is susceptible of more than one plausible reading, courts ordinarily accept the reading that disfavors pre-emption." Altria Grp., Inc. v. Good, 555 U.S. 70, 77, 129 S.Ct. 538, 172 L.Ed.2d 398 (2008) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Under the NLEA, "no State or political subdivision of a State may directly or indirectly establish under any authority or continue in effect as to any food in interstate commerce ... any requirement for a food which is the subject of a standard of identity established under section 341 of this title that is not identical to such standard of identity or that is not identical to the requirement of section 343(g)
Both Plaintiff and Defendant agree that the FDA has not established a standard of identity for honey. Motion at 15; Response at 17. Defendant contends that because 21 U.S.C. § 343(i)(1) allows foods to be labeled according to their common name and "honey" is indisputably the common name for the product it sold and marketed, Plaintiff's claims are expressly preempted. Motion at 15-17. Plaintiff argues that Defendant has read 21 U.S.C. § 343(i) too broadly because the provisions of 21 U.S.C. § 343(i) are triggered only in
Title 21 U.S.C. § 343(i) provides that for any food product for which no standard of identity has been established, the product is mislabeled:
21 U.S.C. § 343(i). In support of its reading of 21 U.S.C. § 343(i), Plaintiff points out that Section 343(g) expressly states that it only applies to federal standards of identity
The Court agrees with Plaintiff that the Florida Honey Standard is not expressly preempted by federal law. When it enacted the NLEA, Congress was clear that it would not "preempt any provision of State law, unless such provision is expressly preempted under section 403A of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act." Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, Pub. L No. 101-535, § 6(c)(1). As Plaintiff points out, Congress has only expressly preempted standards of identity which conflict with established federal standards. See Response at 15. While Congress could have banned all state standards of identity, it did not do so. Other courts have noted that under the NLEA, "`the only State requirements that are subject to preemption are those that are affirmatively different from the Federal requirements.'" Chavez v. Blue Sky Natural Beverage Co., 268 F.R.D. 365, 372 (N.D.Cal.2010) (citing In re PepsiCo, Inc. Bottled Water Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., 588 F.Supp.2d 527, 532 (S.D.N.Y.2008)). Here, the Florida Honey Standard does not conflict because there is no federal standard of identity for honey. The Court does not find any conflict between this conclusion and 21 U.S.C. § 343-1(a)(3) because, if a state has prescribed a standard of identity for a food product, the provisions of 21 U.S.C. § 343(i)(1) are not triggered.
Finally, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claims would violate the dormant commerce clause. Motion at 17. In support of this argument, Defendant argues only that the burden of the Florida Honey Standard on Target would be "enormous" when compared to the "putative local benefits." Id. (citing Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137, 142, 90 S.Ct. 844, 25 L.Ed.2d 174 (1970)). The Court agrees with Plaintiff that this argument should not serve as a basis for the Court to grant the Motion. See Response at 20. Any putative effect on Defendant of the Florida Honey Standard is clearly outside the four corners of the Complaint and may require a factual inquiry by the Court.
Based on the foregoing, it is
1. Defendant Target Corporation's Motion to Dismiss Complaint [DE 26] is
2. Plaintiff's Florida Unfair Deceptive Trade Practices Act claim is
3. Plaintiff's Unjust Enrichment claim is
4. Plaintiff may file an Amended Complaint on or before September 18, 2012; and
5. Plaintiff's "Motion for Leave to File Surreply in Opposition to Defendants' [sic] Motion to Dismiss" [DE 43] is
Similarly, in Boysen v. Walgreen Co., No. C 11-06262 SI, 2012 WL 2953069 (N.D.Cal. July 19, 2012), the court found that a plaintiff who alleged that the defendant failed to disclose arsenic and lead levels in fruit juices had failed to demonstrate an injury in fact because he paid for and consumed the fruit juices without suffering any harm. Boysen, 2012 WL 2953069, at *4. Notably, the court observed that the fruit juices "do not fail to comply with any federal standards" and did not have a "diminished value" due to the presence of the lead. Id. The Court finds that Plaintiff's injury in fact allegations, which specifically contend that the Defendant's honey fails to comply with Florida regulations and was less valuable than honey with pollen, are sufficient to state an injury in fact. See Compl. ¶¶ 43, 67.
However, the Court declines to find, as argued by Defendant, that the Complaint fails to state a claim because it fails to plead that the honey Plaintiff purchased was not "honey" under any standard. See Motion at 6. Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant's honey violates the Florida Honey Standard. Whether that honey satisfies some other standard is not one of the elements of a FDUTPA claim and is more appropriately addressed by the Court when analyzing Defendant's preemption and FDUTPA safe harbor arguments.