Consumer lawyer sanctioned for frivolous Starbucks labeling lawsuit

Attorney Spencer Sheehan brought a class action in the Northern District of New York, arguing that Starbucks’ representation that a specific blend of coffee was “100% Arabica Coffee” was misleading, since it suggested there were no additives, including  potassium.  The district court dismissed the complaint, noting that there was no allegation that there actually was any added potassium, and, even if there were, the reasonable consumer would find “100% Arabica” to refer to the kind of beans (i.e., Arabica versus Robusta).

Noting that Mr. Sheehan had filed 18 consumer class actions in the Northern District since 2021, all of which were dismissed early on — including in cases where no motion to dismiss or response had even been filed, as well as dozens of other similar cases throughout the Second Circuit — the court issued an order to show cause as to why Mr. Sheehan should not be sanctioned for filing a frivolous lawsuit. That order prompted an amicus brief from a furniture company that faced another similar lawsuit in the Northern District of Florida. Reviewing the cases cited by Sheehan and finding them distinguishable, this week, the court found civil contempt sanctions were appropriate, reserving decision on the nature of the final sanctions.

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