A New Jersey federal trial judge has dumped a motion to dismiss a putative class action against the makers and distributors of MonaVie, a “super juice” allegedly hawked in a nationwide pyramid scheme as a treatment for cancer, arthritis, stroke, diabetes and allergies, among other conditions.
On August 19, U.S. District Judge William Martini allowed Pontrelli v. MonaVie to proceed, finding New Jersey plaintiff Lisa Pontrelli’s complaint meets the legal requirements to pursue claims of fraud and unjust enrichment against Utah-based MonaVie, Inc. Read the judge’s ruling here.
MonaVie touts the South American acai berry as the key ingredient that gives its eponymous juice preventive and restorative power.
Containing a dozen other exotic fruits, such as camu camu and aronia, the juice is sold in elegant wine-like bottles for $45 for 25 ounces, according to the complaint. It is marketed as providing benefits for, among other things, inhibiting tumor growth, getting better sleep, protecting your DNA, improving memory and enhancing sexual function. The company also offers a kosher variety.
The company uses a multi-level sales structure, building a network of “independent distributors” who are taught how to generate allegedly false and misleading advertising, and to recruit customers and more distributors using misleading testimonials, according to the complaint. The pyramid structure also provides legal insulation for MonaVie itself against fraud charges by allowing the company to claim no responsibility for the claims or actions of the distributors, the complaint contends.
In its motion to dismiss, MonaVie asserted that distance, arguing the plaintiffs attributed no unlawful conduct to the company itself.
MonaVie, launched in 2005, is the latest enterprise of co-founder Dallin Larsen, previously was an executive for Dynamic Essentials, which used multi-level marketing to sell Royal Tongan Limu, another alleged super juice that was derived from a sea plant found off the Polynesian nation of Tonga, according to the complaint and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA investigated the company and its claims and, in 2003, issued a cease and desist order and compelled Dynamic Essentials to dump its remaining 90,000 bottles of Royal Tongan Limu, worth about $2.7 million to the company, at a landfill in Illinois.
Plaintiffs’ counsel is Donald Beshada, of Beshada Farnese LLP. MonaVie is represented by Kurt Dzugay, of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP.
Lisa Hoffman contributes to law.com.