American Meat Institute v. Leeman, No. D053325.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtIrion
Docket NumberNo. D053325.
PartiesAMERICAN MEAT INSTITUTE et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. WHITNEY R. LEEMAN, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date22 December 2009
180 Cal.App.4th 728
102 Cal. Rptr. 3d 759
AMERICAN MEAT INSTITUTE et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
WHITNEY R. LEEMAN, Defendant and Appellant.
No. D053325.
Court of Appeals of California, Fourth District, Division One.
December 22, 2009.

[180 Cal.App.4th 734]

Morrison & Foerster, Michele B. Corash, Maria Chedid, William F. Tarantino and Joanna E. Herman for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Hirst & Chanler, Clifford A. Chanler and David Lavine for Defendant and Appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, Dennis A. Ragen and Claudia Polsky, Deputy Attorneys General, as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

OPINION

IRION, J.


American Meat Institute and National Meat Association (the Trade Associations) filed suit against Whitney R. Leeman seeking a declaration that the consumer warnings required by the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, Health and Safety Code section 25249 et seq., commonly known as Proposition 65, are preempted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. § 601 et seq. (the FMIA)).

In this appeal, Leeman challenges two rulings. First, she challenges the trial court's decision overruling her demurrer, in which she contended (a) that the complaint failed to plead an actual controversy between the parties to support declaratory relief; and (b) that, for several reasons, it was not necessary or proper for the court to exercise its power to grant declaratory relief. Second, Leeman challenges the trial court's decision granting summary judgment in favor of the Trade Associations, in which it concluded that the FMIA preempted Proposition 65 point of sale warning requirements with respect to meat.

180 Cal.App.4th 735

We conclude that the trial court properly overruled the demurrer. Further, we conclude that the FMIA expressly preempts point of sale warning requirements imposed by Proposition 65 with respect to meat, and on that basis we affirm the trial court's ruling on the motion for summary judgment.

I
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The Applicable Legal Framework

1. Proposition 65

Proposition 65, which was passed as a ballot initiative in 1986, requires the state to develop and maintain a list of chemicals "known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity." (Health & Saf. Code, § 25249.8, subd. (a).)1 It also requires that businesses provide warnings before consumers are exposed to such chemicals. Specifically, Proposition 65 states that "[n]o person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning to such individual . . .," except as otherwise provided by the statute. (Health & Saf. Code, § 25249.6.)2

The warning required by Proposition 65 "may be provided by general methods such as labels on consumer products . . ., posting of notices, placing notices in public news media, and the like, provided that the warning accomplished is clear and reasonable." (Health & Saf. Code, § 25249.11, subd. (f).) According to the regulations implementing Proposition 65, warnings for consumer products may take the form of "[a] warning that appears on a product's label or other labeling"; "[i]dentification of the product at the retail outlet in a manner which provides a warning" such as "shelf labeling, signs, menus, or a combination thereof"; or "[a] system of signs, public advertising identifying the system and toll-free information services, or any

180 Cal.App.4th 736

other system that provides clear and reasonable warnings." (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 27, § 25603.1, subds. (a), (b), (d); see also People ex rel. Lungren v. Cotter & Co. (1997) 53 Cal.App.4th 1373, 1378 [62 Cal.Rptr.2d 368] ["a merchant can comply with Proposition 65 by posting a sign stating the products are known to the state to cause cancer and/or are reproductively toxic"].)3

A private citizen may bring an action to enforce Proposition 65 provided that (1) at least 60 days before filing a lawsuit the citizen gives notice to the alleged violator, the Attorney General, district attorneys and city attorneys in the jurisdiction where the violation occurred; and (2) no public official has already commenced prosecution of the same violation. (Health & Saf. Code, § 25249.7, subd. (d)(1).)

If found in an enforcement action to have violated the requirements of Proposition 65, a violator "shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) per day for each violation in addition to any other penalty established by law." (Health & Saf. Code, § 25249.7, subd. (b)(1).)

2. The FMIA

The FMIA regulates meat and food products made from meat.4 (21 U.S.C. § 602.) As Congress explained, the FMIA was enacted because "[i]t is essential in the public interest that the health and welfare of consumers be protected by assuring that meat and meat food products distributed to them are wholesome, not adulterated, and properly marked, labeled, and packaged." (21 U.S.C. § 602.)

The FMIA requires governmental inspectors under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to perform pre- and postslaughter inspection of the animals used for meat. (21 U.S.C. §§ 603-605.) Thereafter, the

180 Cal.App.4th 737

meat is to be marked either "`inspected and passed'" or "`inspected and condemned,'" based on whether the meat is found to be adulterated or unadulterated. (21 U.S.C. § 606.) As relevant here, meat is adulterated if, among other things, "it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health; but in case the substance is not an added substance, such article shall not be considered adulterated under this clause if the quantity of such substance in or on such article does not ordinarily render it injurious to health." (21 U.S.C. § 601(m)(1).)

The FMIA prohibits any person from offering meat for sale if it is "adulterated or misbranded at the time of such sale [or] offer for sale." (21 U.S.C. § 610(c).)5 Meat is misbranded if, among other things, "its labeling is false or misleading in any particular." (21 U.S.C. § 601(n)(1).) "The term `labeling' means all labels and other written, printed, or graphic matter (1) upon any article or any of its containers or wrappers, or (2) accompanying such article." (21 U.S.C. § 601(p).)6

The federal regulations that implement the FMIA (9 C.F.R. § 300 et seq. (2009)) describe in great detail the rules for the labeling of meat. (9 C.F.R. §§ 317.1-317.400 (2009).) The regulations provide, among other things, that with the exception of certain generically approved labeling, "[n]o final labeling shall be used on any product unless the sketch labeling of such final labeling has been submitted for approval . . ." to the applicable federal regulatory agency. (9 C.F.R. § 317.4(a) (2009).) Further, according to the regulations, "[n]o product or any of its wrappers, packaging, or other containers shall bear any false or misleading marking, label, or other labeling and no statement, word, picture, design, or device which conveys any false

180 Cal.App.4th 738

impression or gives any false indication of origin or quality or is otherwise false or misleading shall appear in any marking or other labeling."7 (9 C.F.R. § 317.8(a) (2009).)

The FMIA contains a preemption provision, which provides in relevant part: "Marking, labeling, packaging, or ingredient requirements in addition to, or different than, those made under this chapter may not be imposed by any State or Territory or the District of Columbia with respect to articles prepared at any establishment under inspection in accordance with the requirements under subchapter I of this chapter,8 but any State or Territory or the District of Columbia may, consistent with the requirements under this chapter, exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the Secretary over articles required to be inspected under said subchapter I, for the purpose of preventing the distribution for human food purposes of any such articles which are adulterated or misbranded and are outside of such an establishment, or, in the case of imported articles which are not at such an establishment, after their entry into the United States." (21 U.S.C. § 678.)9

3. The Trade Associations' Declaratory Relief Lawsuit

The Trade Associations represent packers and processors of meat. In November 2004, Leeman sent notices to eight meat processors and retailers, including six members of the Trade Associations, as well as to the Attorney General, the district attorneys for each of California's 58 counties and certain city attorneys (the Notices). The Notices were titled "60-day Notice of Violation," and specified that they were sent in compliance with that portion of Proposition 65 requiring a 60-day notice before the filing of a citizen suit. (Health & Saf. Code, § 25249.7, subd. (d).)10 In the Notices, Leeman

180 Cal.App.4th 739

identified dioxins as carcinogens and PCB's as both carcinogens and reproductive toxins, and she stated that the companies at issue were selling either ground beef or beef liver products containing PCB's and dioxins without supplying the warnings required by Proposition 65. Accompanying each of the Notices was a certificate of merit signed by Leeman's attorney, as required by Health and Safety Code section 25249.7, subdivision (d), which stated, among other things, that "there is a reasonable and meritorious case for the private action."

After their members received the Notices, the Trade Associations negotiated with Leeman on behalf of their members. Leeman agreed that she would wait several months longer than the required 60 days before filing a citizen suit. The delay would allow more time to explore a potential resolution and give the Attorney General's Office time to more fully assess the matter.

On the day that the extended waiting period expired, the Trade Associations filed...

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54 practice notes
  • Davis v. Farmers Ins. Exch., B257970
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 28, 2016
    ...of Cotati v. Cashman (2002) 29 Cal.4th 69, 80, 124 Cal.Rptr.2d 519, 52 P.3d 695 ; accord, American Meat Institute v. Leeman (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 728, 741, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 759.) Appellant did not plead a claim for declaratory relief. Neither his original complaint nor the operative 5th AC ......
  • Biomedical v. Nunez, B243205
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 9, 2014
    ...a declaration of its rights and obligations under the Act.” (Ibid . )Plaintiff also relies on American Meat Institute v. Leeman (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 728, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 759 (American Meat ), in which the defendant sent required notices under Proposition 65 to, inter alia, eight different......
  • Wilson v. City, No. A123480.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 27, 2011
    ...of Civil Procedure section 1060 is a question of law that we review de novo.' [Citation.]" ( American Meat Institute v. Leeman (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 728, 741, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 759.) The same standard of review applies when we determine whether a matter is ripe for adjudication. ( Farm Sanct......
  • Cal. Chamber of Commerce v. Brown, No. A125493.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 6, 2011
    ...method to revise the Proposition 65 list is worthy of some, albeit slight, note. (See American Meat Institute v. Leeman (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 728, 750–752 & fn. 25, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 759 [some weight given to agency practice followed for 12 years as stated in policy memorandum and letters wr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
53 cases
  • Davis v. Farmers Ins. Exch., B257970
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 28, 2016
    ...of Cotati v. Cashman (2002) 29 Cal.4th 69, 80, 124 Cal.Rptr.2d 519, 52 P.3d 695 ; accord, American Meat Institute v. Leeman (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 728, 741, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 759.) Appellant did not plead a claim for declaratory relief. Neither his original complaint nor the operative 5th AC ......
  • Biomedical v. Nunez, B243205
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 9, 2014
    ...a declaration of its rights and obligations under the Act.” (Ibid . )Plaintiff also relies on American Meat Institute v. Leeman (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 728, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 759 (American Meat ), in which the defendant sent required notices under Proposition 65 to, inter alia, eight different......
  • Wilson v. City, No. A123480.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 27, 2011
    ...of Civil Procedure section 1060 is a question of law that we review de novo.' [Citation.]" ( American Meat Institute v. Leeman (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 728, 741, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 759.) The same standard of review applies when we determine whether a matter is ripe for adjudication. ( Farm Sanct......
  • Cal. Chamber of Commerce v. Brown, No. A125493.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 6, 2011
    ...method to revise the Proposition 65 list is worthy of some, albeit slight, note. (See American Meat Institute v. Leeman (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 728, 750–752 & fn. 25, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 759 [some weight given to agency practice followed for 12 years as stated in policy memorandum and letters wr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Meat Labeling and the Public's Right to Know: Important Lessons From Environmental Disclosure Laws
    • United States
    • What can animal law learn from environmental law? U.S. Law Contexts Food and Agricultural Law
    • September 18, 2015
    ...60. Roe, supra note 38, at 282. 61. Id. 62. Rechtschafen & Williams, supra note 40, at 10850. 63. American Meat Inst. v. Leeman, 180 Cal. App. 4th 728 (2009). 64. Id. at 761. 80 What Can Animal Law Learn From Environmental Law? “provide the public with important information on the hazardous......

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