Court Approves $15 Million Settlement in Godiva Product Origin Lawsuit Over Objections from State Attorneys General
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Court Approves $15 Million Settlement in Godiva Product Origin Lawsuit Over Objections from State Attorneys General

On April 20, 2022, a $15 million class action settlement was approved by the court in Hesse, et al. v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., over the objections of multiple State Attorneys General.

Plaintiffs alleged that the company’s use of “Belgium 1926” as a marketing phrase led consumers to believe that chocolates were produced in Belgium rather than in Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs claimed that this marketing phrase violated state consumer protection laws and that consumers would not have purchased or not have paid as much for the chocolates if they knew they were not made in Belgium.

In 2020, plaintiffs survived a motion to dismiss by Godiva, with the District Court Judge Alison J. Nathan of New York finding that: “[a] consumer could reasonably believe that Godiva was founded in Belgium in 1926, as Godiva contends, and that the representation on its products of this heritage means that its products continue to be manufactured in that location. Moreover, at this stage, the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor. Doing so, it is reasonable that a consumer would view a label touting the location and year of a company's founding as representing the products' continued place of production.” Hesse v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. 463 F. Supp. 3d 453, 469 (S.D.N.Y. 2020).

Ultimately, plaintiffs settled with Godiva for $15 million, with the ability for plaintiffs’ attorneys to seek up to $5 million in legal fees and costs. However, under the settlement, class members’ claims are capped at $25 per claimant, and if class members’ claims do not reach or exceed the $15 million maximum, Godiva will retain unclaimed amounts.

The States Attorneys General of Florida, Idaho, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and Utah expressed significant concerns with the settlement in a letter to the court. These concerns involved the sufficiency of notice to the class. Specifically, the State Attorneys General argued that notice to consumers of the settlement was insufficient, and should have been posted on Godiva’s website. They also expressed concern that the settlement structure would “artificially depress the number of claims,” and incentivize Godiva to retain more of the settlement.

The court overruled the objections, holding that notice was sufficient and that the settlement was finally approved. Hesse v. Godiva Chocolatier (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2022, No. 1:19-cv-0972-LAP) 2022 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 72641, at *3.


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