In re Pet Food Products Liability Litigation

544 F. Supp. 2d 1378 (2008)

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In re Pet Food Products Liability Litigation

United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation
544 F. Supp. 2d 1378 (2008)

Facts

Several companies that made dog and cat food, including Menu Foods, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Del Monte Pet Products, Nestle Purina PetCare Co., and Sunshine Mills, Inc. (the pet-food companies) (defendants) issued a recall on certain pet-food products due to a contamination in the protein concentrate of the food. The contamination was traced back to an ingredient used by pet-food manufacturers (defendants) that was supplied by two Chinese supply companies (defendants). The Chinese companies were criminally indicted for intentionally defrauding American manufacturers. Consumers in the United States and Canada (plaintiffs) who bought, or whose pets consumed, said pet-food products filed several class actions against the pet-food companies, manufacturers, and suppliers. The cases were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) and transferred to the district court. A $24 million settlement was reached that contemplated economic damages for class members that incurred expenses due to the contamination. The settlement also contained a term that the manufacturers would continue to regularly test protein concentrates imported from China for the term of a year. Counsel for the class filed a motion to approve settlement, and the district court preliminarily approved the settlement pending a fairness hearing. At the hearing, a number of class members objected to the settlement because: (1) it did not provide for criminal or punitive sanctions; (2) it did not require indefinite testing of the pet-food products; (3) the funds did not have an allocation for recovery based on emotional distress; and (4) the settlement excluded claims for future expenses.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Heyburn, J.)

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