Challenging Class Certification: Examining the Brita Water Filtration System Lawsuit

Challenging Class Certification: Examining the Brita Water Filtration System Lawsuit

A recent lawsuit involving The Brita Products Company and The Clorox Company has brought attention to allegations of misrepresentation and breach of warranty concerning their home water filtration system. The case revolves around claims that Brita made misleading statements regarding the water processing capacity of their filters and the capacity of the reservoir chamber. This article analyzes the court proceedings, the class certification issue, and the factors that led to the appellate court's decision.

Background of the Case

Brita manufactures and sells a popular home water filtration system consisting of a pitcher, a reservoir, and a filter. The user pours tap water into the reservoir, which then gradually passes through the filter into the pitcher. Brita manufactured multiple models from July 1992 to the present, all utilizing the same type of filter. Initially, the packaging stated that each filter processed up to 35 gallons of water, and the filter should be replaced every 35 gallons or 2 months. After mid-1998, the processing capacity was increased to 40 gallons per filter.

Plaintiffs alleged that Brita violated various provisions of General Business Law, engaged in negligent misrepresentation, fraud and deceit, and breached warranty. Their claims were based on the contention that Brita's representations regarding the water processed per filter were significantly less than advertised and that certain models had a reservoir chamber capacity below the promised half gallon.

Class Certification and Appellate Court Decision

Plaintiffs sought certification of a nationwide class of Brita filtration system and filter purchasers, but the motion court limited the certified class to New York State purchasers only. On appeal, the appellate court found that the motion court erred in certifying class action status for all New York purchasers since individual issues predominated over common issues.

Under CPLR 901(a), plaintiffs must satisfy five prerequisites for class certification. However, the need for particularized proof of reliance and resulting injury on Brita's alleged misrepresentations made class certification inappropriate. Reliance is a requirement for all causes of action, except for those based on General Business Law § 349. Since various individual factors could have influenced a class member's decision to purchase the product, reliance could not be presumed. Deposition testimony of the named plaintiffs revealed diverse reasons for replacing filters, including time lapse and taste or appearance of water. Brita's survey of consumer usage patterns indicated that only a small percentage had an understanding of the 35-40 gallons capacity, and many replaced filters based on taste or appearance of water. These individualized factors made reliance on Brita's alleged misrepresentations vary from person to person.


The lawsuit against Brita regarding their water filtration system highlighted issues of misrepresentation and breach of warranty. While plaintiffs sought class certification, the appellate court ruled that individual issues of reliance and resulting injury predominated over common issues, thereby denying certification for a nationwide class. This case serves as a reminder that class certification requires meeting strict prerequisites and demonstrating that common issues substantially outweigh individualized concerns. As the legal proceedings continue, it remains to be seen how this case will impact future consumer protection litigation and the marketing practices of companies in the water filtration industry.