When biotechnology outpaces legislation and the Food and Drug Administration, it is up to the courts to decide what constitutes false and deceptive advertising and unfair competition. This class action case, Briseno v. ConAgra, is widely cited because of its decision permitting the plaintiffs to use conjoint analysis as part of their damages model. A conjoint analysis conducted by a survey expert measures what the price premium of a product would be, but for a certain feature or additive. GMOs and conjoint analysis in a class action damages model are becoming increasingly accepted.
Lead plaintiff Robert Briseno and a proposed class of plaintiffs in 11 states brought a false and deceptive advertising claim against ConAgra Foods, Inc., the manufacturer of Wesson brand cooking oil. Wesson advertises its oil as “100% Natural,” but the plaintiffs argued that the label was false and misleading because the oil is made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Plaintiff’s contend that the genetic modification of the ingredients makes them “not natural,” and that ConAgra should have labeled the products as having GMOs. The plaintiffs also alleged various violations of consumer protection statutes in their respective states including breach of express and implied warranties, and unjust enrichment.
The court granted motions to join the classes of claimants and seek punitive damages. To calculate damages, the plaintiffs then proposed to use conjoint analysis to measure the price premium attributable to what they would pay for oil without GMOs. The proposed conjoint survey measured consumer preferences and understanding of non-GMO ingredients, to isolate the price premium for the “100% Natural” label. The court accepted this damages model as evidence of the importance of the “100% Natural,” meaning without GMOs, to consumers purchasing vegetable oil.
Conjoint Analysis in a Class Action Damages Model
This case is significant because of its use of conjoint analysis as an accepted part of its model for damages. MMR Strategy Group understands the complexity and intricacies of designing, performing, reporting, and rebutting surveys in class action cases. Our survey experts have testified in class action cases and are available for consultation if you require conjoint analysis.