Nestle Sued Over Spring Water Claims

A federal judge in Connecticut has advanced a class-action lawsuit claiming that Poland Spring water doesn’t come from an actual spring. The bottled water company’s owner, Nestle SA, advertises the brand as “100% Natural Spring Water.” U.S. district Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer said the consumers from eight north-eastern states that filed the lawsuit may pursue their claims.

The 325-page lawsuit was filed on behalf of consumers from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as a permanent injunction that would bar Nestle Waters from claiming the water comes from a spring. According to the suit, Poland Spring has earned between $300 million and $900 million annually for each of the past 11 years.

At the heart of the matter is whether Poland Spring water is really from a spring as advertised. On its website, Poland Spring describes how the water comes from a spring Hiram Ricker found on his Poland, Maine property in 1797. In its own court documents, Nestlé Waters said that Poland Spring water complies with the Food and Drug Administration’s identity standard for spring water.

The suit contends that Nestle Waters is defrauding customers by filling their bottles with ordinary groundwater. It claims that the spring ran dry nearly 50 years ago and that “not one drop” of Poland Spring water is spring-fed. Instead, it claims, the company has built and maintained six “phony, man-made ‘springs’” that are really wells to comply with the law. It also alleges that one or more of the company’s wells are located near a present or former landfill, human waste dump, or other similar site.

These plaintiffs originally filed a complaint the company in August 2017. Judge Meyer dismissed that complaint in May 2018 on the grounds that their claims were all pre-empted by federal law. An amended complaint was filed in July 2018. The company had asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, which was denied in this latest decision.