As reported by Law Street Media, on October 4, 2022, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik of the Western District of Washington at Seattle issued an order granting preliminary approval to a proposed $6.15 million settlement aimed at resolving Hawaii coffee farmers claims that Costco, Marshalls, Gold Coffee Roasters, and other large retailers falsely labeled ordinary coffee beans as premium “Kona” coffee. The proposed settlement includes a $6.15 million payment from Gold Coffee Roasters to Kona coffee growers.
The lawsuit was filed by Lieff Cabraser and co-counsel in 2019 on behalf of “farmers who grow the entire worldwide supply of authentic Kona coffee,” who alleged that only coffee grown in the Kona District of the Big Island of Hawaii can legally be labeled and sold as “Kona” coffee. According to the farmers, only 2.7 million pounds of actual Kona coffee is grown in Hawaii each year, but over 20 million pounds of coffee ends up being sold with the name, such that nearly 90% of what consumers see marketed as Kona Coffee is an inferior, non-Kona substitute.
Under the proposed settlement, defendant Gold Coffee Roasters Inc. would make the $6.15 million payment to over 600 true-Kona growing class members, with amounts dependent on how much product each coffer grower sold during the proposed class period. Gold also agreed to new labeling that will adhere to Hawaii’s stringent labeling laws.
In his order, Judge Lasnik was favorable of the settlement, determining it to be “fair, reasonable, and adequate, entered into in good faith, and free of collusion.”
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