The last remaining non-bankrupt defendant in the four-year-old class action suit brought about by a group of coffee farmers from Kona, Hawaii, has agreed to a $12 million settlement, according to court records.
A United States district court judge in the Western District of Washington State gave preliminary approval to the settlement yesterday. It would require Honolulu-based MNS Ltd. — the parent company of the Honolulu-based convenience store chain ABC Stores — to pay $12 million to settle claims related to damages suffered by producers due to Kona coffee mislabeling.
MNS was one of 21 defendants initially named in the four-year-old case, alongside large national and regional chains such as Costco, Walmart, Amazon, Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons.
The settlement, which is nearly twice as much as the second-largest settlement in the case to date, would effectively bring the case litigation to a close and result in more than $33 million in total recovered damages to the class.
Dating back to 2019, the original complaint presented the results of laboratory testing on 19 different coffee products that were marketed and sold as Kona coffee but allegedly contained little or no coffee that was actually produced in Kona, a well-known coffee-growing region.
The plaintiffs invoked the Lanham Act, a 1946 U.S. trademark act designed to protect from “false designation of origin” in the sale of consumer products.
“Even though only 2.7 million pounds of authentic green Kona coffee is grown annually, over 20 million pounds of coffee labeled as ‘Kona’ is sold at retail,” the original motion, filed in the State of Washington district court, states. “That is physically impossible; someone is lying about the contents of their ‘Kona’ products.”
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Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.