The field of “semantics law” is growing at a rapid pace. We recently reported on two lawsuits revolving around the use of the term “handmade” with respect to bourbon and vodka. Here’s another to add to the list. Whole Foods and two other grocers (Wegman’s and Acme) in New Jersey have been hit with a lawsuit alleging deceptive use of the term “store-baked.”
So what heinous crime have these grocers committed? It’s nothing as dastardly as trying to pass day-old bagels as fresh. Rather, the lawsuit contends some of the bread sold as “store-baked” is being made off site and only being heated on the store’s premises. Apparently, the Plaintiffs’ sensitive palates require that baked goods be made from scratch on the premises. The Plaintiffs contend that these grocers’ alleged evil deeds violate the New Jersey Consumer Protection Act, and in bringing the suit, they purport to represent a class of approximately 10,000 customers of each chain. Further, they seek damages of at least $100 per customer. That’s a lot of dough.
Whole Foods declined to comment on the matter, but Wegman’s and Acme denied any deceptive practices. If these types of cases are allowed to move forward, expect a lot more Plaintiffs bringing cases that pivot on semantics.