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May 18, 2018 | last updated May 18, 2018 2:37 pm

Case closed: Federal court dismisses lawsuit over Poland Spring labeling

Photo / Lori Valigra
Photo / Lori Valigra
A federal court in Connecticut has dismissed a class-action lawsuit alleging that Poland Spring, the top-selling bottled water in the Northeast, isn't labeled accurately.

Nestlé Waters North America announced today that the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut granted its motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit by 11 individuals alleging its Poland Spring Water Co.'s water collection sites are not from spring water.

The lawsuit, "Patane et al. vs. Nestlé Waters North America, Case No. 3:17-cv-01381," alleged the labeling of Poland Spring Brand 100% Natural Spring Water was deceptive. The 325-page lawsuit, filed Aug. 15, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, had asked for a jury trial against Nestlé Waters North America, which has its U.S. headquarters in Stamford, Conn. It also listed $5 million as the amount on the lawsuit but does not list specific damages. The $5 million is the minimal amount for such a class-action lawsuit and could potentially go much higher, a lawyer familiar with the case told Mainebiz at that time.

"We are pleased with the Court's decision to dismiss this meritless lawsuit," said Charles Broll, Nestlé Waters executive vice President and general counsel. "Poland Spring is what we have always said it is — 100% natural spring water, meeting all FDA regulations for spring water. Consumers can be confident in the honesty and accuracy of the labels on every bottle of Poland Spring."

A report released last December stated that Poland Spring's total economic impact on the state of Maine in 2016 amounted to more than $390 million in sales for Maine companies, supporting the equivalent of more than 2,300 full-time jobs with income totaling nearly $120 million. Collectively, these activities generated more than $21 million in tax and fee revenue for Maine state and local governments.

It also employed 860 people who live in more than 100 Maine cities and towns, paying more than $49 million in annual salaries and benefits.

Investigation: Poland Spring brand meets the standards

Photo / Mainebiz archives
Photo / Mainebiz archives
An illustration showing how spring water is sourced.

Nestlé Waters North America and DLA Piper, a global law firm with numerous offices in the United States, also announced today that DLA Piper's independent investigation into whether Poland Spring Brand 100% Natural Spring Water meets the requirements of the federal spring water identity standard confirmed that Poland Spring is properly labeled as "spring water."

"This report represents the independent findings of DLA Piper based on the totality of the information we collected and reviewed," said former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, chairman emeritus of DLA Piper. "DLA Piper has concluded that Poland Spring Brand spring water sources satisfy the requirements of the federal spring water identity standard; and, as a result, the use of the term 'spring water' on Poland Spring® labels is both accurate and appropriate."

DLA Piper conducted the investigation at the request of Nestlé Waters North America, the company stated in its news release, adding that it did not impose any restrictions on the investigation beyond establishing its scope.

The DLA Piper review panel consisted of Mitchell, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader; Saxby Chambliss, former U.S. Senator from Georgia; and James Blanchard, former governor of Michigan. The legal team that prepared the report has deep experience in regulatory affairs and independent investigations, and included George Karavetsos, a partner at DLA Piper and former director of the Federal Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations; Ignacio Sanchez, chair of DLA Piper's Government Affairs Practice group; and John Merrigan, co-chair of DLA Piper's Federal Law and Policy Practice group.

The hydrogeology expert who worked on the report was Dr. David Boutt, professional hydrogeologist and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Boutt visited all eight Poland Spring Brand spring water source locations in Maine, accompanied by members of the DLA review panel, to examine the spring water production sites and reviewed the hydrogeologic evidence presented to regulators.

DLA Piper also interviewed Nestlé Waters North America employees and independent professionals, including professional hydrogeologists who participated in producing scientific analyses submitted in support of the regulatory approvals.

"We enlisted the team at DLA Piper to answer one question, without conditions: Is Poland Spring what we say it is? We did so, before any of the class action litigation matters were filed against us, because of our deep commitment to ensuring full compliance with laws and regulations," said Nestlé Waters Executive Vice President and General Counsel Charles Broll. "We are pleased — but not surprised — with their conclusion that validates that Poland Spring Brand spring water is appropriately labeled under the applicable legal and regulatory framework."

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Full report on investigation of Poland Spring's water sourcing practices

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