Wolf Popper Defeats Motion to Dismiss in Nutra Glucosamine Case
Wolf Popper LLP has recently prevailed on a motion to dismiss in Amavizca v. Nutra Manufacturing LLC, et al., No. 8:20-cv-01324-RGK-MAA (U.S. District Court, Central District of California). The firm’s client, Plaintiff Rigo Amavizca, claims that he purchased a dietary supplement product labeled as containing Glucosamine Sulfate (specifically, GNC brand Glucosamine Sulfate). However, after having the product tested by a laboratory, the product was found not to contain Glucosamine Sulfate at all. Instead, it was found to contain only Glucosamine Hydrochloride, contrary to its label. Accordingly, Mr. Amavizca, through his Wolf Popper attorneys, brought suit against the alleged manufacturers and/or suppliers of the product: Nutra Manufacturing, LLC (“Nutra”) and International Vitamin Corporation (“IVC”). His class action complaint alleges violations of California consumer protection statutes and common law, and seeks to represent both California and nationwide classes of consumers who bought fake Glucosamine Sulfate pills produced by Nutra and/or IVC.
Nutra and IVC moved to dismiss the complaint on multiple grounds, arguing that the case was preempted by federal law; that the complaint did not allege the Defendants’ participation in misbranding; that some of the legal claims were invalid; and that the case could not proceed on behalf of a nationwide class of consumers. The Defendants also argued that the case should be stayed indefinitely if not dismissed. The Court roundly rejected each of these arguments in turn, and denied the Defendants’ motion in its entirety.
First, the Court found that the case was not subject to dismissal under the “first-to-file” doctrine, because this case and another related case were both pending before the same judge, thus posing no risk of conflicting judgments. Second, the Court held that the complaint plausibly alleged the Defendants’ involvement in misbranding the product, and that the exact nature of their respective involvement was a question of fact appropriately explored in discovery. Third, the Court held that the claims were not preempted by certain regulatory requirements of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, because Plaintiff was not required to prove his case according to those requirements at the pleading stage.
Next, the Court rejected the Defendants’ request for a stay based on the bankruptcy of non-party GNC (the retailer of some of the products at issue). The Court held that the Defendants had not made out a case of hardship that would justify granting them a stay.
The Court then rejected various arguments raised by the Defendants in an attempt to narrow the claims or the prospective classes. First, the Court held that IVC was not entitled to dismissal because Plaintiff had adequately alleged IVC’s involvement. Second, the Court held that the first-to-file rule also did not entitle Defendants to dismissal of the class claims, because no class had yet been certified against either Defendant in this or any related cases. Third, the Court held that it was premature to decide whether Plaintiff could represent a putative class of consumers who bought different Glucosamine Sulfate-labeled products than he did. Fourth, the Court held that Plaintiff could request equitable relief in the alternative to damages, as permitted by federal pleading rules. Fifth, the Court held that dismissal of claims related to purchases by non-residents of California would be premature, because Defendants had not identified any pertinent conflict between the laws of California and other states. Sixth, the Court recognized that unjust enrichment is a viable cause of action, and can properly be construed as a quasi-contract claim seeking the remedy of restitution.
Finally, the Court held that Plaintiff could seek punitive damages against Defendants based on the allegations that the products were fake even though Defendants conducted “rigorous testing” on them (supporting the inference that Defendants are knowingly deceiving and defrauding consumers).
If you would like more information about any of Wolf Popper’s Glucosamine Sulfate lawsuits and how they could affect you, please contact one of the following attorneys: