UPDATE: On Dec. 8, 2020, a Big Heart pet food class action lawsuit challenging “grain free” labeling has been allowed to move forward thanks to a ruling from a California federal judge.
A judge has refused to dismiss a class action lawsuit over allegations that pet food made by Big Heart Pet Brands is not really grain free, as advertised.
The judge did trim some claims from the false ad class action lawsuit, but gave customers an opportunity to amend the class action and try again.
This decision was made by U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick, who rejected Big Heart Pet Brands’ motion to dismiss the pet food false ad class action lawsuit.
The company made multiple efforts to dodge the pet food class action lawsuit, arguing that the false ad claims should not be tackled by a class action lawsuit, but Judge Orrick determined that this effort was premature, and the case should currently remain as a class action lawsuit. He noted it was rare for courts to throw out class action claims at the current litigation stage.
The pet food company also said the pet food class action lawsuit should be moved to Ohio, the location of the Big Heart Pet Brands headquarters. Judge Orrick was unconvinced, noting that this would put put more burden on the plaintiffs. He decided that the Big Heart foods class action lawsuit should remain in California, the location of the company’s headquarters until 2019.
According to the judge, previous decisions dictate that a suit cannot be moved to make litigation more challenging to plaintiffs — in contrast, California offers more convenience for all parties involved.
In their other attempts to block the pet food false ad class action lawsuit, largely the company argued that customers had not been specific enough in their allegations against Big Heart Pet Brands, and as a result, the company asserted that the pet food class action lawsuit should be thrown out.
The company said that customers did not sufficiently specify when and how testing was conducted on the pet food.
However, the judge determined that this lack of specificity was not enough to sink the customers’ claims against Big Heart Pet Brands. According to Judge Orrick, customers did not need to provide information on how their testing was performed at this stage in the legal process.
The judge also rejected Big Heart Pet Brands’ argument that the consumers should have better defined key terms such as “grain” and “soy” to generate their argument that the pet food was falsely advertised, because he determined that these terms are common words that did not require a definition.
According to the judge, the customers’ false advertisement claims could survive because they had sufficiently established that the reasonable consumer would be misled by the company’s use of the phrase “grain free.”
In yet another rejection of Big Heart’s attempt to say that the customers had not provided enough detail in their argument, the judge determined that it was not necessary for the customers to state that the amount of corn or soy in the pet foods was dangerous to pets.
He decided that since the customers’ allegations were based on false advertising, it was enough for the customers to solely say that there was corn or soy in any amount.
The judge did dismiss certain claims from the Big Heart Pet Brands ingredient misrepresentation class action lawsuit, but in these cases, gave the customers the opportunity to amend them per his direction.
Judge Orrick decided to throw out the customers’ plea for injunctive relief because they allegedly did not establish that they would purchase the food again if it were accurately advertised.
How do you choose food for your pet? Let us know in the comments section below.
The proposed Class of consumers is represented by Jonathan Shub and Kevin Laukaitis of John Swift & Graf PC; Gary E. Mason, Danielle L. Perry, and David Lietz of Mason Lietz & Klinger LLP, Gregory F. Coleman and Lisa A. White of Greg Coleman Law PC; Jeffrey S. Goldenberg of Goldenberg Schneider LPA; Charles E. Schaffer of Levin Sedran & Berman LLP; and Phillip Friedman of Friedman Law Offices.
The Big Heart Pet Brands Grain Free Dog Food Class Action Lawsuit is Rice-Sherman, et al. v. Big Heart Pet Brands Inc., Case No. 3:19-cv-03613, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
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