Hesse v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., 19-cv-972 (AJN)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Writing for the CourtALISON J. NATHAN, District Judge
Citation463 F.Supp.3d 453
Parties Steve HESSE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. GODIVA CHOCOLATIER, INC., et al., Defendants.
Docket Number19-cv-972 (AJN)
Decision Date29 May 2020

463 F.Supp.3d 453

Steve HESSE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GODIVA CHOCOLATIER, INC., et al., Defendants.

19-cv-972 (AJN)

United States District Court, S.D. New York.

Signed May 29, 2020


Aubry Wand, The Wand Law Firm, P.C., Culver City, CA, Timothy J. Peter, Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP, Philadelphia, PA, Innessa Melamed Huot, Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiffs.

Seth A. Moskowitz, Brian Seonjoon Choi, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres LLP, New York, NY, for Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

ALISON J. NATHAN, District Judge:

463 F.Supp.3d 460

This putative class action concerns Godiva Chocolatier's use of the representation "Belgium 1926" on its chocolate products made and sold in the United States. Plaintiffs allege that this representation led them to purchase Godiva's chocolates products believing that they were made in Belgium—when they are in fact made in Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs therefore contend that this representation violates New York and California consumer-protection laws, express and implied warranties, and several common-law guarantees. Godiva has now moved to dismiss. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the motion in part and DENIES it in part.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

For the purposes of a motion to dismiss, the Court takes well-pleaded allegations in Plaintiffs’ Complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs’ favor. See Koch v. Christie's Intern. PLC , 699 F.3d 141, 145 (2d. Cir. 2012).

Godiva, a chocolate manufacturer, places the representation "Belgium 1926" "prominently ... on the front packaging of all the Godiva chocolates." Amended Complaint (Compl.), Dkt. No. 12, ¶ 2. Godiva also "extensively utilizes the [Belgium 1926] representation across its entire marketing campaign, such as on its Godiva storefronts, supermarket display stands, and print and social media advertising." Id. ¶ 3. Plaintiffs include the following example of Godiva's packaging in their Complaint:

463 F.Supp.3d 461

Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiffs also include examples of Godiva's online, storefront, in-store, and social-media advertising, all of which contain the Belgium 1926 representation. Id. ¶ 25. The crux of this case is that despite these representations, Godiva's chocolates have all been made in Reading, Pennsylvania during the relevant time period. Id. ¶ 27. "None of the Godiva Chocolates are made in Belgium." Id.

Plaintiff Steve Hesse is a citizen of New York, and Plaintiff Adam Buxbaum a citizen of California. Id. ¶¶ 13, 14. Because of the Belgium 1926 representation, they purchased Godiva chocolates believing that they were purchasing chocolate made in and imported from Belgium. Id. ¶¶ 6, 13, 14. They would not have purchased the products, or would not have paid as high a price, had they known the chocolate was made in the United States. Id. ¶ 7. In support of this assertion, Plaintiffs point to tangible and intangible differences in reputation and ingredients between American and Belgian chocolates. Id. ¶¶ 28, 29. For example, they note that "Belgium is widely understood and recognized as producing among the highest quality chocolates in the world." Id. ¶ 18. And they assert that American chocolate differs in taste from that produced in Belgium, due "to the use of different butters, creams, and alcohol." Id. ¶ 28. Nonetheless, Plaintiffs "wish to and are likely to continue purchasing the Godiva Chocolates in the future." Id. ¶ 15. Without a change in Godiva's labeling, "they will be unable to rely with confidence on Godiva's representations in the future and will therefore abstain from purchasing the Products." Id. ¶ 15.

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiffs filed this action in January 2019. See Dkt. No. 1. In their Amended Complaint, Dkt. No. 12, Plaintiffs aver that they bring this action on behalf of four putative classes: First, a nationwide subclass, defined as "[a]ll persons in the United States who, within the relevant statute of limitations period, purchased any of the Godiva Chocolates." Compl. ¶ 39. Second, a New York subclass, defined as all such persons who "purchased any of the Godiva Chocolates for personal, family, or household purposes in the state of New York." Id. Third, a California subclass, defined as all persons who "purchased any of the Godiva chocolates in the state of California." Id. And fourth, a "California Consumer" subclass, defined as all such persons who "purchased any of the Godiva chocolates for personal, family, or household purposes in the state of California. Id.

Plaintiffs assert claims for these respective subclasses under New York and California state laws. They assert the following claims: (1) violation of New York General Business Law (GBL) § 349, (2) violation of New York GBL § 350, (3) breach of express warranty under New York law, (4) breach of implied warranty under New York law, (5) violation of California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act, (6) violation of California's Unfair Competition Law, (7) violation of California's False Advertising Law, (8) breach of express warranty under California law, (9) breach of implied warranty under California law, (10) common-law fraud, (11) intentional misrepresentation, (12) negligent misrepresentation, (13) "Quasi Contract/Unjust Enrichment/Restitution." Compl. ¶¶ 51–172.

In April 2019, Godiva moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint and requested that the Court take judicial notice of certain documents. Dkt. 22–24. Godiva argued that Plaintiffs lack standing for injunctive relief, warranting dismissal in part for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). And Godiva argued that Plaintiffs had failed to state any of their claims, warranting complete dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). This motion is now before the Court.

463 F.Supp.3d 462

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A Rule 12(b)(1) motion is a threshold challenge to this Court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am. , 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994). "[A] claim is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Morrison v. Nat'l Austl. Bank Ltd. , 547 F.3d 167, 170 (2d Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). "A plaintiff asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it exists." Makarova v. United States , 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000) ; see also Whitmore v. Ark , 495 U.S. 149, 154, 110 S.Ct. 1717, 109 L.Ed.2d 135 (1990) ("It is well established ... that before a federal court can consider the merits of a legal claim, the person seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of the court must establish the requisite standing to sue."). In deciding a 12(b)(1) motion, "the court must take all facts alleged in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff." NRDC v. Johnson , 461 F.3d 164, 171 (2d Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). "[U]nder Rule 12(b)(1), [a court is] permitted to rely on non-conclusory, non-hearsay statements outside the pleadings." M.E.S., Inc. v. Snell , 712 F.3d 666, 671 (2d Cir. 2013).

For a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), it must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). Therefore, a claim is properly dismissed at this stage if the plaintiff fails to plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937.

III. JUDICIAL NOTICE

The Court begins with Godiva's request for the Court take judicial notice of four documents: (1) the Patent and Trademark Office's registrations of Godiva's Belgium 1926 trademark, (2) a page on Godiva's website explaining the company's Belgian heritage, (3) a page on Godiva's website explaining the company's history, and (4) a CBS News article about Godiva's factory in Reading, Pennsylvania. See Dkt. Nos. 24, 36.

At the motion-to-dismiss stage, the Court's review is limited to the facts as-pleaded by the plaintiff, documents appended to or referred to in the complaint, and "to matters of which judicial notice may be taken." Festa v. Westchester Med. Ctr. Health Network , 380 F.Supp.3d 308, 314 (S.D.N.Y. 2019). Judicial notice may be taken of documents that are "integral to the complaint," such that the complaint "relies heavily upon [the documents’] terms and effect." Palin v. N.Y. Times Co. , 940 F.3d 804, 811 (2d Cir. 2019). Courts have also taken judicial notice of materials in the public record, such as federal copyright registrations, newspaper articles, and regulatory filings—all for the limited purpose of noting what the documents state, rather than to "prove the truth of their contents." Ace Arts, LLC v. Sony/ATV Music Pub. , LLC, 56 F.Supp.3d 436 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) ; Staehr...

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    ...of observers of Plaintiff's toilet installations who hold these views. See, e.g., Hesse v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., No. 19-CV-972, 463 F.Supp.3d 453, 462, (S.D.N.Y. May 29, 2020) ("Courts have ... taken judicial notice of materials in the public record, such as ... newspaper articles ... f......
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    ...to constitute injury in fact, and that allegations of possible future injury are not sufficient." Hesse v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., 463 F. Supp. 3d 453, 465 (S.D.N.Y. 2020) (quoting Am. Civil Liberties Union v. Clapper, 785 F.3d 787, 800 (2d Cir. 2015)). Plaintiffs maintain that they have ......
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