Sunday, March 9, 2008

Parties in Pet Food Litigation Near Settlement

New Jersey Law Journal reports that parties are close to settling the multi-district litigation against Menu Foods for injuries resulting from its contaminated pet food. Here’s an excerpt:

On Feb. 19, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated suits from around the nation, finding they involve questions of fact common to 31 cases already assigned to U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman, who sits in Camden.

Menu Foods' lawyer, Amy Schulman of DLA Piper in New York City, wrote to Hillman on Feb. 28, saying the parties have made substantial progress during mediation. Hillman gave them until March 19 to report back.

Michael Ferrara Jr. of Cherry Hill, N.J.'s Ferrara Law Firm, who along with co-counsel in Chicago and San Francisco represent a dozen plaintiffs, agrees that his cases are likely to be resolved soon.

Suits were filed soon after Menu Foods Inc., of Ontario, Canada, recalled 60 million containers of 90 brands of pet food early last year. Pet owners alleged that by February 2007, the company was receiving complaints of pet illness and death due to contaminated food. The products contained whole-wheat flour, imported from China, that was later found to be tainted with melamine, a toxin.

After testing its products on 50 animals, seven of which died, Menu Foods issued a recall on March 16, 2007. But more animals were harmed in the interim, the suits charge: As of April 2007, a total of 3,730 pets died of kidney failure and another 11,700 got sick.

About 120 suits were filed in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Ontario, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington.

The plaintiffs claim unfair and deceptive trade practices; negligence in failing to provide adequate quality control; unjust enrichment and breach of implied and express warranties. Some claim emotional trauma was caused by the death or illness of pets.

Here’s a link to Milberg Weiss’s complaints and the FDA page on the pet food recalls.  These complaints do not contain claims for emotional distress, for which recovery varies significantly from state to state.


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