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Vol. 8 - Issue 2
February 6, 2019


Encore: Randy Spencer’s Open Mic

The Absolutely, Positively Dumbest Class Action -- Eve






[From the September 7, 2016 Issue of CO.]
Class actions are a funny thing.  Not funny ha-ha.  But funny in that they serve such divergent purposes.  On one hand, virtually every social movement since the 1950s has been augmented through class actions and they have served to protect constitutional rights.  This is the case that Professor Arthur Miller made to Maniloff in the last issue of Coverage Opinions (which, I might add, is a useless publication except for the “Randy Spencer’s Open Mic” column).

On the other hand, Miller also acknowledged the well-known knock on class actions, that there have been some “downright silly” ones.  Indeed, just a few days ago, a California federal judge dismissed a putative class action against Starbucks seeking damages from the coffee giant on the basis that its cold drinks contain ice, which lessens the amount of beverage in the cup.  And don’t forget the class action against Subway because its “foot long” subs measured fewer than twelve inches.  That one settled.

These types of consumer class actions get a lot of media attention because of their silliness and opportunity to portray the legal system as broken – especially when they involve a settlement that gives the class members a pittance and the lawyers gobs of money.  These are simply irresistible stories for the media.

Well, when it comes to silly consumer class actions, the shark has officially been jumped.  On August 19 a putative class action was filed in the Central District of California, against Envelope Corporation of America, alleging that the envelope behemoth is violating a variety of California consumer protection laws by not stating on its packaging that the glue on its envelopes contains no nutritional value.  The plaintiff, for himself and on behalf of all others similarly situated, alleges that ECA is obligated to warn consumers that licking an envelope will not satisfy any of the government’s recommended daily nutritional requirements.

The plaintiff concedes in the complaint that envelopes are exempt from the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act information panel requirement because envelopes are not a prepared food.  [That’s the little box on the package that tells you the calories and fat content of a food and that three potato chips constitutes a serving].  So the complaint takes a different tack, maintaining that consumers could be led to believe that, because envelope glue enters their mouth when licking it, they are obtaining a nutritional benefit.  As a result, the complaint warns that consumers may forego eating other foods, on the mistaken belief that the envelope has already satisfied an aspect of their daily nutritional requirements.  Plaintiffs seek medical monitoring to be sure that they have not been physically harmed by inadequate nutrition, on account of NEC’s gross negligence by its omissions, as well as a host of damages for violation of various consumer protection laws, and, of course, the accompanying attorney’s fees allowed by these laws.    

The case is Phillip Finley, and all others similarly situated v. Envelope Corporation of America, No. 16-cv-1259 (C.D. Calif. Aug. 19, 2016).       

Thank goodness the post office switched to sticker stamps a while back.  Can you imagine? 


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