A $6.5 million settlement has been reached between Chipotle Mexican Grill and customers who claimed that the restaurant’s “non-GMO” advertisements and campaigns were misleading.
The Chipotle customers filed a motion for preliminary approval with the court asking the court to give a thumbs up to the deal that was hammered out.
As part of the Chipotle settlement agreement, each Class Member will receive $2 on each purchase that qualifies under the agreement and will be allowed to submit a claim for up to five qualifying purchases without any documentation.
In addition, each settlement Class Member will be allowed to get up to $20 for 10 qualifying purchases with proof of purchase. Each household will be capped at 15 meals, according to the Chipotle class action settlement agreement.
“Plaintiffs believe this recovery is quite good considering the limited damages available to each class member at trial, and the ease of filing a claim for up to $10 without proofs of purchase,” the motion for preliminary approval states.
In October 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. granted certification in three cases in California, Maryland, and New York. The motion for preliminary approval states that Chipotle still disputes this decision, by arguing that certification was not warranted because the plaintiffs did not show commonality and predominance.
The Chipotle motion for preliminary approval states that the settlement was reached after three years of heated litigation. The settlement agreement was reached three months before a trial was about to begin and after fact and expert discovery and after numerous briefs were filed.
“Defendant continues to believe that the Court incorrectly found that there was a common question of law or fact to the classes warranting certification…and that, even if there were common questions, the Court incorrectly determined that those questions predominated over individual issues, including ‘exposure, reliance, materiality, causation, and inquiry,’” the motion for preliminary approval argues.
The motion for preliminary approval also states, “unlike in other similar cases where litigants failed at various stages of the litigation, Plaintiffs have succeeded to the point of preparing for trial.”
The original Chipotle class action lawsuit was filed in April 2016 by six plaintiffs who claimed that the restaurant started a “G-M-Over It” campaign whereas they would be the only fast food chain in the United States to offer a GMO-free menu.
“But Chipotle’s ‘non-GMO’ advertising and labeling is misleading and deceptive to consumers, who reasonably understand today that such claims would mean that Chipotle’s menu is 100% free of GMOs and that Chipotle does not serve food sourced from animals that have been raised on GMOs or genetically engineered feed,” the Chipotle class action lawsuit read.
The motion for preliminary approval of the Chipotle settlement states that the agreement offers a Service Award for the Class representatives, which is broken down to $5,000 per plaintiff.
Last, the motion for preliminary approval of the settlement states that Counsel will ask for attorney’s fees of $1.95 million, plus out-of-pocket expenses of $650,000, which is 30 percent of the settlement amount.
Did you purchase food from Chipotle thinking that their menu contained non-GMO items? Let us know in the comment section below.
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The plaintiffs are represented by Matthew B. George, Mario M. Choi, Frederic S. Fox, Laurence D. King and Donald R. Hall of Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP, and Matthew I. Menchel and Hartley M. K. West of Kobre & Kim LLP.
The Chipotle Non-GMO Class Action is Martin Schneider, et al. v. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Case No. 4:16-cv-02200, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
UPDATE: September 2019, the Chipotle non-GMO class action settlement website is now active. Click here for more information.
UPDATE 2: On Feb. 4, 2020, a judge granted preliminary approval of a settlement between Chipotle and its customers, ending claims that the chain restaurant falsely advertised its food as “GMO free.”
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