NEW YORK — Starbucks was ordered Monday by a federal judge to face a lawsuit claiming that several of its Refresher fruit drinks lacked a key ingredient: fruit.
U.S. District Judge John Cronan in Manhattan denied Starbucks’ request to dismiss nine of 11 claims in the proposed class action, saying “a significant portion of reasonable consumers” would expect their drinks to contain fruits mentioned in their name.
Consumers complained that Starbucks Mango Dragonfruit, Mango Dragonfruit Lemonade, Pineapple Passionfruit, Pineapple Passionfruit Lemonade, Strawberry Açai and Strawberry Açai Lemonade Refreshers did not contain any of the advertised mango, passion fruit or acai.
Plaintiffs Joan Kominis, of Astoria, New York, and Jason McAllister, of Fairfield, California, said the main ingredients were water, grape juice concentrate and sugar, and that Starbucks’ misleading names had led to overbilling. They said it violated their state’s consumer protection laws.
In seeking dismissal, Seattle-based Starbucks said product names described the flavors of the drinks rather than their ingredients, and that its menus accurately advertised those flavors.
It also said no reasonable consumer would have been confused and that its baristas could have “sufficiently cleared up” any confusion if consumers had questions.
But the judge said that unlike the term “vanilla,” which is the subject of numerous lawsuits, “there is nothing before the court to indicate that ‘mango,’ ‘passion fruit,’ and ‘açaí’ are terms that are generally understood to represent a flavor without also representing a flavor. this ingredient.
Cronan also said the confusion might be understandable because other Starbucks products have ingredients in their names — for example, Ice Matcha Tea Latte contains matcha and Honey Citrus Mint Tea contains honey and mint.
The judge dismissed a fraud claim, finding no evidence that Starbucks intended to defraud consumers, as well as a claim of unjust enrichment.
Starbucks, in a statement, called the lawsuit’s allegations “inaccurate and baseless” and said it looked forward to defending itself.
The trial began in August 2022 and alleged at least $5 million in damages. Robert Abiri, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said he was pleased with the decision and looks forward to representing the proposed class.
The case is Kominis et al v. Starbucks Corp, United States District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 22-06673.
New York Post