(Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday rejected Nestle SA’s bid to dismiss a revised lawsuit claiming that it defrauded consumers by filling bottles of its Poland Spring water with ordinary groundwater.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer said consumers from eight northeastern states may pursue claims that Nestle Waters North America deceived them into overpaying by labeling Poland Spring as “100% Natural Spring Water.”
The New Haven, Connecticut-based judge allowed claims on behalf of consumers from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. He said federal law preempted claims from Vermont consumers.
Nestle Waters had argued there was “no fraud” because its water met the various state requirements. Meyer had dismissed an earlier version of the lawsuit last May.
“We remain highly confident in our legal position and will continue to defend our Poland Spring brand vigorously against this meritless lawsuit,” a Nestle Waters spokeswoman said in a statement on Thursday. “Poland Spring brand natural spring water is just what it says it is — 100 percent natural spring water.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
According to the amended complaint, Nestle Waters sells 1 billion gallons of Poland Spring a year in the United States, and “not one drop” of its water “emanates from a water source that qualifies as a genuine legal ‘natural spring.’”
The actual Poland Spring in Maine, which the defendant’s labels said is a source of Poland Spring water, “commercially ran dry” nearly 50 years ago, the complaint said.
In his earlier dismissal, Meyer said the plaintiffs were trying merely to enforce guidelines for spring water under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and that this preempted their state law claims.
But in Thursday’s decision, he said he was “convinced” the plaintiffs would try to show only that Poland Spring water did not meet the states’ individual spring water standards, though they appeared to “mirror” the federal standard.
The case is Patane v. Nestle Waters North America Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut, No. 17-01381.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown