The husband-and-wife owners of Strange Honey Farm in Cocke County are attempting to derail a federal class-action lawsuit against the company by asserting the plaintiffs – two Knox County men – do not have subject-matter jurisdiction to sue the company, according to a Monday filing in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.
Gary Strange and Fonda Strange do not address the allegations that part of their honey comes from Vietnam; that it’s mixed with syrup; and it should not be marketed a “raw” honey because it’s excessively heated, nor will they have to in this forum if U.S. District Judge Pamela R. Reeves grants the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
The flaws in the lawsuit are numerous and glaring, according to Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball, who represents Strange Honey.
The plaintiffs, Knoxville honey consumers Robert Greer and James Reimer, do not demonstrate they have suffered a “concrete” and “tangible” injury, they cannot seek relief for themselves or other members of the class. What’s more, the lawsuit does not claim Greer or Reimer bought honey from the Stranges, only that “they buy their own groceries,” according to Ball.
The defense attorney also asserts the lawsuit fails to identify a violation of state-law claim that raises a federal issue that’s disputed, substantial and could be resolved in federal court.
“(They allege) three common-law state action in the complaint: fraudulent concealment (which is not a stand-alone cause of action in Tennessee), fraud and negligent representation,” the motion to dismiss states. “These are garden-variety state law causes of action which have no federal question connections.”
More fundamentally, Ball argues, the plaintiffs request a Tennessee-only class of people who bought honey in Tennessee.
“(The) complaint furnishes no percentage of how many class members are Tennesseans, as opposed to out-of-state citizens … The complaint alleges that ‘some’ members of the class are from states other than Tennessee,” the motion states. “There is no statement of how many of what percentage ‘some’ is.”
The plaintiffs allege that an analysis indicated that some of the honey sold as authentic Tennessee honey by Strange Farms came from Vietnam. The same analysis indicated the product Strange Farm sells contains syrup, and that the product had been heated to a point where the purported health benefits of consuming honey have been eliminated.
No hearing date has been set for the Stranges’ motion to dismiss.