Coconut water, minus the coconut, leads to federal lawsuit
In late February, Gresham's Vicky Silva bought a bottle of Cascade Ice's coconut water at a local grocery store and took a few sips. Something didn't taste right to Silva.
Now she's suing the Everett, Washington, company that makes the coconut water, claiming that she was duped into the purchase because it contains no coconut at all.
In a 13-page lawsuit filed Thursday, March 13, in U.S. District Court against Unique Beverage Co. LLC, makers of Cascade Ice waters, Silva and her attorneys, Michael Fuller of Portland and Mark Geragos of Los Angeles, asked the court to certify the lawsuit as a class action, so other Oregon consumers who purchased the coconut water thinking they were getting the benefits of coconut could be compensated.
Representatives of Unique Beverage Co. have not commented on the lawsuit. No court date has been set for the case.
Saying cocnut water is a "billion-dollar industry," Silva's attorneys lambasted Unique Beverage Co. for using "puffery" and "deceit" to entice unsuspecting consumers.
"We now live in a world of alternative facts, where left is right and up is down," Silva's attorneys wrote in the lawsuit. "Apparently buoyed by an entitlement to lie, advertisers increasingly cross the Rubicon of puffery to deceit and trickery — 'alternative advertising.' "
Attorneys said the case "represents an alarming trend — a product masquerading as so-called coconut water, when in fact there is no coconut."
"When confronted with its deceit, instead of offering refunds, defendant responded that its beverage captured the 'essence' of a coconut. This class action is filed on behalf of consumers nationwide who have been tricked into buying defendant's so-called coconut water product."
Shortly after purchasing the bottle of coconut water on Feb. 27, Silva emailed Unique Beverage Co. and complained that the bottle didn't contain any coconut. A company representative responded that the drinks were "flavored with all natural fruit essences" extracted from essential oils.
Silva's lawsuit seeks an injunction requiring Unique Beverage Co. to change the labels on its coconut water products to reflect that the beverage lacks coconut. She also asked the court to approve restitution for anyone in Oregon who purchased the coconut water in the past year, and for monetary damages to be determined by the court.