United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
DIANE BIFFAR, individually and on behalf of all others similarly-situated Plaintiff,
PINNACLE FOODS GROUP, LLC, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
HERNDON, District Judge
before the Court is Pinnacle Foods Group, LLC's motion to
stay (Doc. 12). Specifically, Pinnacle Foods Group, LLC
(“Pinnacle”) moves to stay this action pending
action by the Food and Drug Administration
(“FDA”) on the meaning of the term
“natural” in food labeling. Plaintiff opposes the
motion (Doc. 18). Based on the following, the Court denies
the motion to stay.
August 8, 2016, Diane Biffar, individually and on behalf of
all others similarly-situated, filed a class action complaint
against Pinnacle (Doc. 1). Biffar alleges that Pinnacle
labels its Duncan Hines Simple Mornings Blueberry Streusel
Premium Muffin Mix (“muffin mix”) as containing
“Nothing Artificial” when in fact the muffin mix
contains synthetic, artificial, and/or genetically modified
ingredients, including but not limited to monocalcium
phosphate, xanthan gum, soy lecithin, and corn starch. Biffar
purports to represent the following classes:
The Nationwide class: All citizens of all states
other than Missouri who purchased Duncan Hines Simple
Mornings Blueberry Streusel Premium Muffin Mix for personal,
household, or family purposes and not for resale in the five
years preceding the filing of this Petition (the “Class
The Illinois Class: All citizens of Illinois who
purchased Duncan Hines Simple Mornings Blueberry Streusel
Premium Muffin Mix for personal, household, or family
purposes and not for resale during the Class Period.
(Doc. 1, p. 7). Biffar's complaint alleges claims for
violations of violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and
Deceptive Business Practices Act (“ICFA”) on
behalf of the Illinois Class (Count I); unjust enrichment on
behalf of the nationwide class (Count II) and breach of
express warranty on behalf of the nationwide class (Count
fixed formula exists for applying the doctrine of primary
jurisdiction. In every case the question is whether the
reasons for the existence of the doctrine are present and
whether the purposes it serves will be aided by its
application in the particular litigation.” Ryan v.
Chemlawn, 935 F.2d 129, 131 (7th Cir. 1991) (quoting
United States v. W. Pac. R.R. Co., 352 U.S. 59, 64,
77 S.Ct. 161, 1 L.Ed.2d 126 (1956)). The policy reasons that
animate the doctrine include: (1) “promot[ing]
consistency and uniformity, particularly where the
development of the law is dependent to some degree upon
administrative policy”; (2) employing the expertise of
agencies “to resolve the complexities of certain areas
which are outside the conventional experience of the
courts”; and (3) promoting “judicial economy
because the dispute may be decided within the agency, thus
obviating the need for the courts to intervene.”
Id. In this circuit, “[t]here is no fixed
formula for the invocation of the doctrine of primary
jurisdiction.” Id. (quotations omitted).
asks the Court to follow Judge Ross' reasoning in
Thornton finding that the “FDA's
interpretation of ‘natural' will necessarily inform
the definition of “artificial” and be beneficial
to the Court's determinations of the
claims….” Thornton at Doc. 31, p. 4. As
the parties are aware, Judge Ross' decision is not
binding on this Court. See Midlock v. Apple Vacations
West, Inc., 406 F.3d 453, 457 (7th Cir. 2005)
(collecting cases) (“A district court decision does not
have stare decisis effect; it is not a precedent.”).
Thus, the Court respectfully disagrees with Judge Ross'
reasoning and finds that a stay is not warranted as the
benefits of a stay are speculative and granting the stay
would unduly prejudice plaintiff. The Court further finds
that it is well-suited to entertain this consumer fraud case.
Moreover, the Court agrees with Biffar that this case is
about whether Pinnacle's muffin mix label deceives the
consumers and not how about the FDA defines
“natural” or “artificial.” The Court
is confident that it can decide if it is misleading to a
reasonable consumer to label a product as containing
“Nothing Artificial” when the muffin mix contains
artificial, synthetic ingredients.
the Court DENIES Pinnacle's motion to stay (Doc. 12).