June 5, 2007
Ethics Violations In Pet Food MDL
The New Jersey Law Journal (via Law.com) reports about an alleged ethics violation in the pet foods contamination cases. U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman was incensed that Menu Foods' insurance adjuster had direct discussions with plaintiffs even though they were represented by counsel - a violation of Model Rule 4.2. On May 24th, the judge ordered Menu Foods to stop the contacts, and further to identify the lawyers involved:
"I want to know the names and bar admissions of all the lawyers who advised Menu Foods on its communications with the putative class," he said at a hearing in Camden, N.J. "I want to know the content of the telephone messages. I want to know what scripts are given to the people who are calling people live on the phone and what they're being told to say, and in particular anything that they're being told to say in response to any questions by the parties they're contacting."
On the company website, Menu Foods now states:
On May 24, 2007, a United States federal court issued an order that, for the time being, prevents Menu Foods from having direct contact with individual pet owners. In light of the order, we regret that we cannot communicate with potential claimants at this time. As soon as the court permits, we intend to resume efforts to resolve claims directly with pet owners. We will post additional information when we are able.
As reported in the New Jersey Law Journal, over 120 federal lawsuits have been filed against Menu Foods and consolidated in an MDL, though no venue has been selected.
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