PORTLAND, Maine — A federal court has dismissed a class action fraud lawsuit against the company behind Poland Spring on narrow legal grounds, but a lawyer says the case will continue.
A judge in Connecticut dismissed the suit against Nestle Waters North America Inc. Thursday, but did not weigh in on its allegations that the bottles filled from sites around Maine actually contain common groundwater. The decision leaves the door open for the suit to proceed with revised claims.
Charles Broll, general counsel for the subsidiary of the Swiss food giant Nestle, said in a statement that the company is pleased with the decision and that Poland Spring water meets all federal standards for spring water. “Consumers can be confident in the honesty and accuracy of the labels on every bottle of Poland Spring,” Broll said.
Last summer, 11 people from around the Northeast disputed this in a lawsuit accusing the bottled water company of mislabeling its product and perpetrating a “colossal fraud.” Several other cases making similar claims have since been consolidated with it.
In dismissing the original case, Judge Jeffrey Meyer did not take a position on the true nature of the company’s water, but rather agreed with Nestle’s lawyers that the suit’s claims under state law are preempted by federal law.
Specifically, Meyer ruled the lawsuit was seeking to enforce the United States Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act — under which “spring water” is legally defined — in a way that the federal government can but private parties cannot.
Meyer dismissed the original suit and all but one of the consolidated cases, although he rejected many of Nestle’s arguments and said that new claims, not preempted by federal law, could be filed within 30 days.
A New Jersey lawyer for the people suing Nestle, Alexander Schmidt, said they intend to file revised claims based on state law rules governing spring water that are allowed by Meyer’s ruling. “The decision did not address the accuracy of our detailed factual allegations, which we look forward to proving,” Schmidt said.
This is not the first time that Nestle has been sued over the origins of Poland Spring water. In 2013, the company paid $12 million to end a similar suit with a settlement that allowed it to continue touting the label “100 percent natural spring water.”
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