U.S. News

U.S. lawsuit over underfilled Junior Mints boxes is thrown out

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit claiming that Tootsie Roll Industries Inc tricked consumers into overpaying for Junior Mints by filling more than one-third of its candy boxes with empty space.

Biola Daniel and Abel Duran, from New York, and Trekeela Perkins, from Mississippi, accused Tootsie Roll of defrauding them because 35 percent to 43 percent of the boxes contained mostly wasted air known as “slack-fill.”

But in a 44-page decision, U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan found no fraud, saying “reasonable” consumers could have determined the weight and the number of candies from the packaging, and would expect some empty space.

“The law simply does not provide the level of coddling plaintiffs seek,” Buchwald wrote.

“Assuming that a reasonable consumer might ignore the evidence plainly before him attributes to consumers a level of stupidity that the court cannot countenance,” she added.

Buchwald also refused to require fuller boxes because the plaintiffs were unlikely to be misled again.

She also said their “annoyance at being unable to confidently” buy Junior Mints did not justify damages in the proposed class-action lawsuit.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tootsie Roll, based in Chicago, had no immediate comment.

Slack-fill is the difference between a box’s capacity and the volume of the product it contains.

Federal law allows some slack-fill to protect a box’s contents, or when contents settle during shipping.

Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed in recent years over slack-fill, with many in California and New York.

Junior Mints are small round chocolate candies with a mint filling. They were introduced in 1949, and won attention in “The Junior Mint,” a 1993 episode of the TV show “Seinfeld.”

The case is Daniel et al v Tootsie Roll Industries LLC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-07541.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio