Language Translation, Class Actions and Foreign Language Speakers

Foreign language translation and language interpretation issues often come up in class action litigation. We’ve blogged about the role of certified translations by professional human translators in the process of certification for a class action. Kellogg, the nation’s largest cereal producer, is facing a class action suit based on its Cocoa Krispies brand’s claim that the cereal helps boost children’s immunity to illness. Filed in California, the suit states that the company has made “false and misleading statements about the chocolatey, sweetened rice cereal”.

The specific statement brought into question is that “eating just three-fourths of a cup of Cocoa Krispies will boost a family’s immunity to illness” and that the brand “provides 25 percent of needed antioxidants and nutrients and is an excellent source of vitamins A, B, C and E”.

According to a Consumer Affairs report, the class action states that Kellogg has “no scientific basis for its claim that eating Cocoa Krispies will help fight illness or otherwise promote good health.” Since there is no evidence that the company’s claims are true, the action states that the purpose of the statements is merely a ploy to put profits ahead of people.

An interesting side to this action is the role that foreign language speakers play – especially in such states as California. When no foreign language translation of the product information is provided, it is questionable whether a non-native English speaker can be included in the class action – as defendants in the past have raised the question of how one can be misled when they are not able to understand the English text. On the other side are those who argue that in advertisements, claims are often made using simple language and relying heavily on visuals – meaning that regardless of a foreign language translation of the actual text, the misleading information is understandable and thus one can be part of the class action.

Up Next: Multi Language Translation Services, Foreign Nationals and U.S. Income Tax

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by Legal Translator & Court Interpreter

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