By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
King’s Hawaiian is being sued for not making its bread in Hawaii, Hawaii News Now reported. A class action lawsuit against the company claims that its packaging, which says “Hilo, Hawaii,” is misleading. Representative plaintiffs file class action lawsuits.
According to Hawaii News Now, a plaintiff is suing King’s Hawaiian, the maker of the popular sweet rolls. “Contrary to popular belief, King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls are not actually made in Hawaii,” the article said. “And now, a New York resident is suing the makers, claiming that he was misled into buying the rolls.
“In the class action lawsuit, Robert Galinsky, the plaintiff, said the back label notes that the popular bread product is manufactured in Torrance, Calif. But Galinsky said the front packaging prominently features ‘Hilo, Hawaii,’ leading people to believe that the bread is actually from there.”
Class action lawsuits occur when one plaintiff files a lawsuit on the behalf of many people in similar situations.
Why do people file class action lawsuits to begin with?
“Imagine that a big mobile phone service provider has overcharged one million customers $10 each, through a fraudulent billing practice,” said Professor Peter J. Smith, Arthur Selwyn Miller Research Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School. “No rational customer would bring a lawsuit to recover just $10, because the costs of the suit would greatly exceed the potential recovery. But if no one challenges the practice, the phone company will be unfairly enriched by $10 million.”
Class actions are filed in cases like this. Professor Smith defined a class action lawsuit as “a suit by a representative plaintiff on behalf of a class of similarly situated persons.” Most of these persons don’t actively participate in the suit. The representative does so for them. One benefit is the avoidance of inconsistent judgments—the verdict for the representative plaintiff is rendered on all the other persons as well.
Exception to the Rule
Usually in lawsuits, one party can’t be bound by any litigation to which they aren’t a party. Professor Smith asked, if three cars are involved in a collision, and Party A sues Party B for negligence and loses, Party C shouldn’t have to abide by the rulings because Party C didn’t have the opportunity to plead their case. Class actions are an exception.
“When a court resolves a class action, all the people who were part of the class are bound by the judgment, even though most of them didn’t participate in any way in the suit,” he said. “Class actions are justified by the interests in efficiency and in assuring that justice is done when individual litigation would not be cost-effective or practical. Sometimes it’s a class action or nothing.”
However, any random person can’t just show up in court and claim to be representing other people in the interest of resolving their legal rights. The standard for a class action binding absent class members is that the representative’s interests must be aligned closely with those of the absent class members.
During Robert Galinsky’s case against King’s Hawaiian, it will have to be proven that his interests align with other purchasers of King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls who feel misled by the bread maker’s packaging.
Professor Peter J. Smith contributed to this article. Professor Smith is the Arthur Selwyn Miller Research Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. He received his BA (magna cum laude) from Yale University and his JD (magna cum laude) from Harvard Law School, where he received the Sears Prize for highest academic performance.