U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik of the Western District of Washington at Seattle has granted final approval to the latest and last settlement in a lawsuit brought by Hawaii’s Big Island coffee farmers accusing retailers and suppliers of falsely labeling ordinary coffee beans as premium “Kona” coffee.
Judge Lasnik’s ruling brings an end to a four-year-old class action lawsuit, in which defendants, including coffee roasting companies as well as large resellers such as Costco, Walmart, Amazon and Kroger, have agreed to pay more than $41 million to the Kona growers, and have agreed to a host of labeling and business practice changes to ensure accurate and reliable labeling of Kona coffee products. Those strictures are projected to generate more than $81 million in economic value for the growers over the next five years.
In approving the latest settlement, Judge Lasnik described this litigation as one “of the most impressive class action cases I have dealt with in my time on the federal bench, and the results as “great for justice … a real result that makes people whole again.”
Lieff Cabraser brought the suit on behalf of the farmers in 2019, claiming that only coffee harvested from Hawaii’s Big Island is actually Kona coffee, and that those companies — almost two dozen named in the original suit — were selling beans and ground coffee under the name without buying from them, in violation of the Lanham Act. The David vs. Goliath style case pitted three small, longtime Kona coffee farms against 22 major coffee suppliers and retailers, selling a variety of mislabeled coffee products across the country in multiple channels of commerce.
Learn more about the Kona Coffee Class Action Advertising Fraud Litigation.