The Briefcase Diaries

John v Whole Foods Market Group Inc

by Jeshica Patel

Who doesn’t like going to Whole Foods? Whether you actually buy something or not, is another story. Sean John, a Whole Foods customer, frequently shopped there and often bought pre-packaged foods.

In 2016, John brought a potential class action suit against Whole Foods alleging violations of sections of the New York General Business Law and for unjust enrichment.[1] The complaint described overcharging of pre‐packaged food at Whole Foods’ stores in New York City. Subsequently, at trial Whole Foods moved to dismiss the case for pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of Article III standing.[2] The elements of standing include injury-in-fact, causation, and redressability. The District Court in this case held that John lacked standing because he failed to allege that he was personally overcharged, and thus lacked the injury element of standing.[3] The lower court even went as far as to dismiss the case with prejudice.[4]

After appealing to the Second Circuit, John was finally able to catch a break. This past Friday, the Appeals Court revived the case by determining that John did indeed plausibly allege an injury, and ultimately vacated the District Court’s decision and remanded.[5]

The case will go back to the District Court, with the ruling that the plaintiff did indeed show the injury element of standing, and thus had legal standing to sue. The next obstacle John will likely face is getting class certification, which may prove to be difficult considering anyone who bought food from a While Foods in NYC after June 2010, would be a potential member.

[1] In re Whole Foods Mkt. 5 Grp., Inc. Overcharging Litig., 167 F. Supp. 3d 524, 537 (S.D.N.Y. 2016).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 539.

[5] John v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp., Inc, (2nd Cir. 2017)