(WGHP) — The Texas Pete lawsuit isn’t California man Phillip White’s first rodeo.
On Sept. 12, White, 28, filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that T.W. Garner Food Co. is deceptively marketing Texas Pete as a Texan product when it’s actually made in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. White’s complaint, filed on behalf of all people in the U.S. who have purchased Texas Pete hot sauce, asks the court to force Texas Pete to change its name and branding and to give money to past customers.
T.W. Garner Food Co. filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on Nov. 10, 2022, but U.S. District Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong denied the motion to dismiss on July 31, 2023.
Court records show White has been involved in a number of other cases against brands. White filed a class-action lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Holdings in 2020; The Kroger Company and Fruit of the Earth Inc. in 2021; and Whole Foods Market California and Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets Inc. in 2022. He was represented in all of these cases by Clarkson Law Firm in Los Angeles.
Here’s a rundown of each of those cases and how they ended.
White filed a lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Holdings on June 17, 2020, claiming that Benefiber products, a prebiotic fiber supplement, were marketed as “100% Natural” despite being “created using a multi-step chemical process that fundamentally alters the ‘natural’ source ingredient into a non-natural, synthetic ingredient.”
White and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Holdings agreed to end the case on Dec. 29, 2021, after the company reached a class-action settlement in a similar lawsuit, Susan Swetz. v. GSK Consumer Health, Inc., on Nov. 22, 2021. The court appointed White to represent the settlement class in the Swetz case.
GlaxoSmithKline LLC agreed to pay $3 billion for unlawful promotion of certain prescription drugs, failure to report certain safety data and alleged false price reporting practices, the Justice Department said.
In a lawsuit filed on Oct. 12, 2021, White accused The Kroger Company and Fruit Of The Earth of “greenwashing” after discovering that certain Kroger sunscreen products with the “Reef Friendly” label contained chemicals that he says “can harm reefs, including coral reefs and the marine life that inhabits and depends on them,” a claim backed up by the National Park Service.
White and Clarkson Law Firm, on April, 21, 2023, filed to have the case dismissed, a move that ignited fierce backlash from Kroger’s legal team.
In response to White’s motion to dismiss, Kroger called White a “serial mislabeling plaintiff” and accused the plaintiff and his legal team of trying to escape scrutiny after the corporation uncovered possible evidence that “strongly suggested, if not confirmed, that Mr. White’s counsel procured him through a classic unlawful ‘capper’ arrangement.”
As Grewal Law PLLC explains, lawyers cannot legally seek out and solicit potential clients. Law firms have tried to get around this rule by using “runners” or “cappers,” people who are not lawyers, to contact potential clients and push them toward certain attorneys.
Kroger asked the court to issue an order forcing White to pay more than $225,000 to cover Kroger’s legal fees and also to allow the company to dig deeper into the alleged “capper” scheme.
The court declined to force White to cover Kroger’s legal fees and did not allow Kroger to continue investigating the allegations. The case was dismissed permanently effective July 7, 2023.
Matthew Sinatro, of San Francisco County, California, along with White, filed a lawsuit against California-based Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets Inc. and Whole Foods Market California Inc. in U.S. District Court on June 17, 2022.
Sinatro and White both claim to have purchased Whole Foods 365 Shells & Cheese in 2020 only to discover that the boxes were “48-56% nonfunctional slack-fill.” After the products got new labeling and packaging, both gave the brand a second chance in 2021 and found, again, that about half of the box was empty.
Both defendants are retailers that own and operate Whole Foods stores on the West Coast. Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets Inc. runs locations in the Southern Pacific Region, and Whole Foods Market California Inc. runs locations in Northern California.
Sinatro and White’s team amended their complaint on August 2022 and added Jessica Prost as a plaintiff. Prost similarly claimed to have purchased Whole Foods 365 Macaroni & Cheese at a Los Angeles store in 2022 before discovering that the box contained “nonfunctional slack-fill.”
They also added Whole Foods Market, Inc., based in Texas, and Whole Foods Market Group, Inc., based in Delaware, as defendants in the amended complaint, but the court dismissed both from the suit on Feb. 16 as neither had ever “developed, manufactured, labeled, or sold any products in California nor advertised or marketed any products in California,” according to companies’ attorneys. WFM Group owns and operates individual Whole Foods Market stores in 26 states and D.C., but not in California. WFMI is “a holding company that owns shares of other operating companies, some of which in turn own and operate individual Whole Foods Market stores.”
The plaintiffs accepted that the court did not have jurisdiction over WFM Group but maintained that it did have jurisdiction over WFMI because it “fully owns and operates” Mrs. Gooch’s and WFM CA. The court rejected this argument, saying that “WFMI’s indirect ownership of Mrs. Gooch’s and WFM CA, by itself, does not” grant jurisdiction.
Without WFM Group and WFMI, the suit was reduced to three California residents suing two California-based companies, which would need to be tried in state court, not federal court.
The plaintiffs asked the court for “jurisdictional discovery,” or, in other words, a chance to gather more information to prove that there is justification to try this case in federal court. The plaintiffs’ legal team said it was struggling to “untangle” the “Whole Foods entity web” to identify the right company to sue in this case, and blamed the defendants for having not “provided Plaintiffs with the proper entities.” The court found this “unpersuasive” and denied the motion.
The court gave the plaintiffs an opportunity to amend their lawsuit, but they declined.