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Recent years have seen the steady increase in lawsuits claiming companies left too much empty space in product packaging.

We all know the feeling.  You buy a box of candy and, upon opening it, are immediately disappointed at the small amount actually contained in the box.  You can’t believe you paid $4.00 for a handful of candy.  While the next step for most people is not to sue, an increasing number of consumers are doing just that.  The cases are called “slack-fill” cases, and state and federal courts across the country are seeing more of them.

One recent case involves Sour Patch Watermelon candies.  Others include cases brought against the makers of everything from pepper to pain reliever.  The cases have varying degrees of success.  A company has a valid defense if, for example, the empty space serves a specific purpose—like the air left in bags of potato chips to protect them from being crushed.

McCormick, the maker of the well-known red and white pepper tins, is facing a number of consumer lawsuits alleging that it reduced the amount of pepper it put in the tins while leaving the tins the same size.  The plaintiffs allege that this was misleading, especially in light of the fact that the packaging is opaque.  The McCormick litigation remains pending.  A recent order granting in part and denying in part a motion to dismiss can be seen here.