A surefire way to start a case off on the wrong foot is to insult the intelligence of a Supreme Court justice.
On Monday, the high court heard an appeal from Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the makers of Pom Wonderful juice. According to the Los Angeles Times, the pair — who say their product is 100 percent pomegranate juice — argue that Coca-Cola's Minute Maid Pomegranate Blueberry juice is actually 99.4 percent apple and grape juice, with the blueberry and pomegranate juice amounting to just a teaspoon per half-gallon. "Coke intentionally designed a label that grossly misleads consumers," argued Pom Wonderful's attorney, former Solicitor General Seth Waxman.
Kathleen Sullivan, the attorney for Coca-Cola, responded that customers aren't "unintelligent" and would understand that most juice drinks are blends. Justice Anthony Kennedy disagreed. "Don't make me feel bad, because I thought this was pomegranate juice," he said.
A federal law known as the Lanham Act prohibits selling products that have a false or misleading description, and Kennedy said that he felt Coca-Cola was asking to "cheat customers." It should be noted that Pom Wonderful has also been accused of misrepresenting a product: In 2013, a judge found that the company exaggerated pomegranate juice's health benefits, falsely stating that it could help treat prostate cancer and heart disease. The Federal Trade Commission upheld this finding, and Pom Wonderful will be fighting it before a federal appeals court next week.
Pom Wonderful's suit against Coca-Cola was initially tossed out by both a federal judge in Los Angeles and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on the grounds that as long as the actual ingredients are on the labels, juice makers can put what they see fit on their packaging. Allison Zieve, a lawyer for consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, tells the Los Angeles Times that if Pom Wonderful wins this time (the Supreme Court is expected to make its decision by late June), it will benefit everyone. "The result will be better, less misleading labels on a range of food products," she argues.