Court Rules Egg Labeling Fraud Case Against Handsome Brook Farm Can Proceed

On January 11th, The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), and The Richman Law Group  announced that the D.C. Superior Court has denied egg retailer Handsome Brook Farm’s motion to dismiss OCA’s lawsuit against it, allowing the case to move forward. The lawsuit, filed in August 2016, alleges Handsome Brook Farm has been selling eggs labeled as “pasture raised” that are not, in violation of the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act (DCCPPA).

In denying Handsome Brook’s motion to dismiss, the court found clear OCA’s allegations that the company misrepresented its eggs as “pasture-raised” and denied Handsome Brook’s claim that OCA failed to adequately describe the alleged illegal conduct. The court ruled that OCA had alleged sufficient facts to support its claim that Handsome Brook violated the DCCPPA, but did order the consumer advocacy group to amend its complaint to disclose the dates on which it purchased the Handsome Brook Farm products from a D.C.-area grocery store.

The lawsuit stems from Handsome Brook’s claims, on its cartons and in a wide-ranging advertising blitz, that all its eggs are “pasture-raised” and meet the company’s high standards for animal husbandry. OCA contends that the company has failed to maintain the standards reflected in this advertising and is instead sourcing eggs from supplier farms that would not meet a consumer’s expectation for “pasture-raised” eggs. This fraud takes unfair advantage of humane-minded consumers, according to the complaint, and takes market share away from other legitimately “pasture-raised” egg brands.

“As consumers become more informed about how food quality and food production affect their personal health, and the health of the environment, they rely on labels to help them choose products that reflect their values,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director. “The Court made the right decision in allowing the case against Handsome Brook to proceed. Corporations must not be allowed to mislead consumers by misrepresenting the ingredients in a product, or the methods by which the product was produced.”

Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director Stephen Wells said: “Companies must be held accountable for attracting consumers with false claims of humane animal care,” said . “We look forward to moving on with the case and vindicating the rights of purchasers to accurate information about the way eggs are produced.”

About the Organic Consumers Association
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization advocating on behalf of more than two million consumers for health, justice, and sustainability. For more information, please visit www.organicconsumers.org.

About the Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.

About The Richman Law Group
A boutique law firm specializing in consumer protection and civil rights litigation, The Richman Law Group was founded on the idea that the client is the essential component in maintaining a successful practice. Composed of a tight-knit cadre of tenacious and diverse professionals, The Richman Law Group is dedicated to fighting for the rights of its clients, and through them, the needs of the community at large. For more information, please visit www.richmanlawgroup.com.

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