United States District Court, District of Columbia
N. MCFADDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Organic Consumers Association ("Plaintiff') brings
this action under the District of Columbia Consumer
Protection Procedures Act ("CPPA"), seeking to
prevent Defendant Hain Celestial Group, Inc. ("Hain
Celestial") from labeling its "Earth's
Best" infant and toddler formula products as
"organic, " at least when those products are in the
District of Columbia. The complaint's only count alleges
that the products contain synthetic ingredients that are not
permitted under the federal Organic Food Production Act of
1990 ("OFPA"), and thus the "organic"
label is a misrepresentation that violates the CPPA. Hain
Celestial moves to dismiss, contending, inter alia,
that private enforcement of organic labeling via state law is
preempted by the OFPA. For the reasons that follow, I
conclude that Plaintiffs claim is federally preempted, and
grant the motion to dismiss.
filed a single-count complaint in D.C. Superior Court,
alleging that Hain Celestial's infant and toddler
formulas under the "Earth's Best" brand (the
"Challenged Products") contain "[a]t least 29
ingredients" (the "Challenged Ingredients")
not permitted under the OFP A. Compl. 4. According to
Plaintiff, these ingredients are "nonagricultural
substances/' some of which pose health risks to the
public, and all of which are illegal in "organic"
infant formula because they are not permitted under the OFP A
and its regulations. Compl. 4, 12-23. Plaintiff seeks a
declaration that Defendant's conduct in marketing the
Challenged Products violates the CPPA, an order enjoining the
conduct and requiring "corrective advertising and
revised labeling, " costs and disbursements (including
attorneys' fees), and punitive damages. Compl. 27-28.
Celestial removed to federal court on the basis of diversity
and federal question jurisdiction, and Plaintiff did not
contest the removal. Hain Celestial moves to dismiss the
complaint in its entirety.
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). "A claim crosses from conceivable to plausible
when it contains factual allegations that, if proved, would
'allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.'" Banneker Ventures, LLC v.
Graham, 798 F.3d 1119, 1129 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (alteration
omitted) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In
undertaking this inquiry, the court will "accept all the
well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint as true and
draw all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the
plaintiffs favor." Id. However, we do not
assume the truth of legal conclusions. Id.
jurisdiction is a threshold question, I begin by considering
whether Plaintiff has standing. Defendant contends that Plaintiff
has failed to adequately plead a concrete
"injury-in-fact, " part of the
'"irreducible constitutional minimum' of Article
III standing. Shaw v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 605
F.3d 1039, 1042 (DC. Cir. 2010) (quoting Lujan v.
Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992));
Def's Mot. Dismiss 10-15. But the complaint alleges,
inter alia, that because it exists to promote, the
interests of organic consumers, Plaintiff funds programs
aimed at informing organic consumers about the dangers of
synthetic and genetically-modified ingredients, appealing
directly to manufacturers like Hain Celestial, and advocating
for stricter organic standards with government actors. Compl.
8, ¶¶ 30-31 (citing Compl. Ex. 12). The Challenged
Products embody what Plaintiff opposes, creating a "need
to 'counteract' the [Defendant's] assertedly
illegal practices, " Fair Employment Council of
Greater Washington, Inc. v. BMC Mktg. Corp., 28
F.3d 1268, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (quoting Havens Realty
Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363, 379 (1982)), and
requiring still more programmatic efforts. Compl. Ex. 12
(educational and political efforts, naming Earth's Best
infant formula a "worst offender"); Compl. 8
("efforts to persuade .. . Earth's Best").
on these well-pleaded facts, I conclude that Plaintiff has
sufficiently alleged injury-in-fact. When the defendant's
alleged violation has "perceptibly impaired" the
plaintiffs programs, "there can be no question that the
organization has suffered injury in fact." Fair
Employment Council, 28 F.3d at 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994)
(quoting Havens, 455 U.S. at 379) (The
defendant's "discriminatory actions have interfered
with  efforts and programs and have also required
[plaintiff] to expend resources to counteract [the] alleged
discrimination")); Spann v. Colonial Vill.,
Inc., 899 F.2d 24, 27-29 (D.C. Cir. 1990) ("[A]n
organization establishes Article III injury if it alleges
that purportedly illegal action increases the resources the
group must devote to programs independent of its suit
challenging the action"). And since Plaintiff satisfies
Article Ill's "irreducible minimum, "
Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560, it has little trouble
demonstrating standing under the CPPA, which broadly confers
standing on "a consumer, " "a nonprofit
organization ... on behalf of itself or any of its members,
" and even "a public interest organization ... on
behalf of. .. a consumer or a class of consumers, " if
the organization has a "sufficient nexus to the
interests involved." D.C. Code §§
28-3905(k)(1)(A), (C), (D); id § 28-3901(a)
(defining "consumer" in the noun form to include a
nonprofit organization or public interest organization that
"does or would purchase . . . goods or services"
"in order to test or evaluate qualities pertaining to
use for personal, household, or family purposes");
Compl. 7-9, ¶ 33.
with jurisdiction, I proceed to consider Defendant's
federal preemption claim.
Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides that
federal law "shall be the supreme Law of the Land ...
any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the
Contrary notwithstanding." U.S. Const, art. VI, cl. 2.
"In applying this Clause, courts have identified three
ways in which a federal statute or regulation can pre-empt
state law: by express pre-emption, by 'field'
pre-emption . . . and by implied or conflict preemption,
which applies when a state law conflicts with a federal
statute or regulation." Geier v. Am. Honda
Motor Ca, 166 F.3d 1236, 1237 (D.C. Cir. 1999)
(citations omitted). "[I]mplied conflict pre-emption
[exists] where it is impossible for a private party to comply
with both state and federal requirements, or where state law
stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of
the full purposes and ...