United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
S. Diamond, J.
the last of seven putative class actions filed across the
country in which the plaintiffs make the same key allegation:
that the “100% Natural” labels on certain Quaker
Oats products are false and misleading. (Compl., Doc. No. 1.)
Five of the earlier-filed cases are proceeding in a
consolidated action in the Northern District of Illinois.
See Gibson v. Quaker Oats Co., No. 16-4853
(N.D. Ill.). A sixth case was voluntarily dismissed. Quaker
asks me to transfer this case to the Northern District of
Illinois under either the first-filed rule or 28 U.S.C.
§ 1404(a) or, in the alternative, to stay the case
pending Gibson's resolution. (Doc. No. 5.)
Because transfer is appropriate under both the first-filed
rule and § 1404(a), I will grant Quaker's Motion and
transfer this case to the Northern District of Illinois.
The Six Earlier-Filed Complaints and the Consolidated
April 29, 2016 and May 4, 2016, plaintiffs filed five
putative class actions, alleging that the “100%
Natural” labels on certain Quaker Oats products are
false and misleading because the oats contain detectable
quantities of the herbicide glyphosate. See Compl.,
Daly v. Quaker Oats Co., No. 16-2155, Doc. No. 1
(E.D.N.Y. Apr. 29, 2016); Compl., Cooper v. Quaker Oats
Co., No. 16-2364, Doc. No. 1 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 29, 2016);
Compl., Gibson v. Quaker Oats Co., No.
16-4853, Doc. No. 1 (N.D. Ill. May 2, 2016); Compl.,
Jaffee v. Quaker Oats Co., No. 16-21576, Doc. No. 1
(S.D. Fla. May 3, 2016); Compl., Kinn v. Quaker Oats
Co., No. 16-2-10756-7 (Wash. Super. Ct. King Cty. May 4,
2016). On June 1, 2016, a sixth, materially identical action
was filed in the Northern District of Illinois. See
Compl., Wheeler v. Quaker Oats Co., No. 16-5776,
Doc. No. 1 (N.D. Ill. June 1, 2016).
2016, the plaintiffs in Jaffee, Daly, and
Cooper agreed to transfer their cases to the
Northern District of Illinois for consolidation. See
Jaffee, No. 16-21576, Doc. No. 12 (S.D. Fla. July 8,
2016) (order granting stipulation to transfer case);
Daly, No. 16-2155, Doc. No. 12 (E.D.N.Y. July 13,
2016) (same); Cooper, No. 16-2364, Doc. No. 16 (N.D.
Cal. July 13, 2016) (same). The cases were consolidated with
Gibson, and on August 11, 2016, the plaintiffs filed
their consolidated amended complaint. See
Consolidated Am. Compl., Gibson, No. 16-4853, Doc.
No. 28 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 11, 2016).
same day, Quaker removed Kinn to the Western
District of Washington. See Notice of Removal,
Kinn, No. 16-1262, Doc. No. 1 (W.D. Wash. Aug. 11,
2016). On August 23, 2016, Quaker moved to transfer
Kinn to the Northern District of Illinois.
See Def.'s Mot. to Transfer, Kinn, No.
16-1262, Doc. No. 10 (W.D. Wash. Aug. 23, 2016).
September 26, 2016, the plaintiff in Wheeler-which
was not consolidated with Gibson-voluntarily
dismissed her case. See Notice of Voluntary
Dismissal, Wheeler, No. 16-5776, Doc. No. 19 (N.D.
Ill. Sept. 26, 2016).
November 3, 2016, the Washington District Court granted
Quaker's motion to transfer. See Kinn, No.
16-1262, Doc. No. 22 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 3, 2016) (order
granting motion to transfer). All the earlier-filed cases are
now pending before Judge Charles Norgle of the Northern
District of Illinois in one consolidated proceeding.
The Instant Complaint
August 22, 2016-months after the other cases were initiated,
and nearly two weeks after the Gibson plaintiffs
filed their consolidated amended complaint-Named Plaintiffs
Oren Panitch, Gina Davis, and Margie Rizika filed the instant
Complaint, which was assigned to Judge Dalzell. (Compl., Doc.
No. 1.) Acting on behalf of a putative nationwide class and
putative Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Texas subclasses,
Plaintiffs allege that Quaker has deceptively marketed
certain oatmeal products as “100% Natural, ” when
the products actually contain glyphosate. (Id.
¶¶ 1-25.) Plaintiffs bring claims on behalf of the
putative nationwide class for breach of express warranty,
breach of implied warranty, unjust enrichment, negligent
misrepresentation, and injunctive relief. (Id.
¶¶ 120-143, 200-214 (Counts I-III, VII-VIII).) On
behalf of the putative state subclasses, Plaintiffs allege
violations of the states' consumer protection statutes.
(Id. ¶¶ 144-199 (Counts IV-VI).) They seek
damages, restitution, disgorgement, injunctive relief,
counsel fees, and costs. (Id. at 41 (Prayer for
October 11, 2016, Quaker moved to transfer this case to the
Northern District of Illinois under both the
“first-filed rule” and 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)
or, in the alternative, to stay the case pending the
resolution of Gibson. (Doc. No. 5.) On October 25,
2016, Plaintiffs responded. (Doc. No. 9.) The Parties have
exhaustively briefed the matter. (Doc. Nos. 5, 9, 14, 19,
January 4, 2017, the case was reassigned to me. (Doc. No.
The First-Filed Rule
explained by the Third Circuit:
The first-filed rule encourages sound judicial administration
and promotes comity among federal courts of equal rank. It
gives courts ‘the power' to enjoin the subsequent
prosecution of proceedings involving the same parties and the
same issues already before another district court.
E.E.O.C. v. Univ. of Pa., 850 F.2d 969, 971 (3d Cir.
1988); accord Crosley Corp. v. Hazeltine Corp., 122
F.2d 925, 929 (3d Cir. 1941) (“In all cases of
concurrent jurisdiction, the court which first has possession
of the subject must decide it.” (quoting Smith v.
McIver, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 532, 535 (1824))); see
also 15 Charles Alan Wright et al., Fed. Prac. &
Proc. § 3854 & n.12 (4th ed. Jan. 2017)
(“[W]hen two courts have concurrent jurisdiction over a
dispute involving the same parties and issues, as a general
proposition, the forum in which the first-filed action is
lodged has priority.”) (collecting cases). The rule
“permits courts to consolidate similar cases by
transferring later-filed cases for consolidation with the
first-filed case.” Palagano v. NVIDIA Corp.,
No. 15-1248, 2015 WL 5025469, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 19, ...