The ruling Thursday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy recommended the plaintiff -- the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington -- be able to litigate for declaratory and injunctive relief, but not for damages. The lawsuit, filed in January 2009, may proceed as a class action, the court said.
"Today's decision puts this case on a glide path toward a jury trial where Coca-Cola will have to defend under penalty of perjury the deceptive claims it has made and continues to make in connection with vitaminwater," Steve Gardner, CSPI litigation director, said in a statement.
"That will put the company in the awkward position of squaring its marketing of vitaminwater as a healthy, disease-fighting drink with its later assertion that 'no reasonable consumer' would ever believe such marketing."
Despite coming in dragonfruit, kiwi-strawberry, acai-blueberry-pomegranate and other flavors, there are negligible amounts of juice in vitaminwater, typically less than one-half of a percent. However, a 20-ounce bottle of non-diet vitaminwater does have about eight teaspoons of sugar or 120 calories, Gardner said.