On Monday, US District Judge John Cronan ordered Starbucks to face a lawsuit that claimed several of their Refresher fruit beverage drinks were missing fruit.
Judge Cronan denied Starbucks’ request to dismiss nine out of the 11 claims in the proposed class action, stating that a “significant portion of reasonable consumers” would expect their drinks to contain fruit mentioned in their names.
Customers complained that Starbucks’ fruit drinks, including Mango Dragonfruit, Mango Dragonfruit Lemonade, Pineapple Passionfruit, Pineapple Passionfruit Lemonade, Strawberry Açai, and Strawberry Açai Lemonade Refreshers, lacked the advertised fruit ingredients.
According to the lawsuit, Plaintiffs Joan Kominis and Jason McAllister alleged that these drinks primarily contained water, grape juice concentrate, and sugar. They argued that Starbucks’ misleading names resulted in overcharging and the violation of state consumer protection laws.
Starbucks in Seattle tried to dismiss the lawsuit, stating that the product names referred to flavors, not ingredients. They argued their menu boards accurately represented these flavors, and any potential confusion could have been resolved by their baristas if customers had questions.
However, the judge said that unlike the term “vanilla,” the subject of many lawsuits, “nothing before the court indicates that ‘mango,’ ‘passionfruit,’ and ‘açaí’ are terms that typically are understood to represent a flavor without also representing that ingredient.”
Judge Cronan mentioned that confusion could be expected because certain Starbucks products, like the Ice Matcha Tea Latte and Honey Citrus Mint Tea, have ingredients in their names.
The judge rejected claims of fraud and unjust enrichment because there was insufficient proof that Starbucks intended to mislead customers.
Starbucks retaliated, describing the accusations as “inaccurate and without merit.”