In 1856, the first ever dog biscuit was manufactured by Spiller and Co. The feat attracted many prospective businessmen to the field of pet food manufacturing, among whom were two visionaries who combined efforts to form Ralston PURINA in 1902.
The company has undergone massive changes to become the third-largest pet food manufacturer worldwide, and the largest in the United States. Its success has not been without scandals, among which are some Purina lawsuits. Most have been dismissed, and a few settled, so let’s look at the ten biggest Purina lawsuits in the company’s history.
10. Salinas v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company
Emmanuel Salinas, a Purina employee as a forklift operator since February 2015 was classified as an hourly non-exempt employee at a rate of $25.46 per hour. He accused Purina of routinely having the employees perform substantial off-the-clock without compensation.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, workers were required to stay in line for temperature checks and to answer several questions before beginning their shifts.
They were not compensated for the time spent in line and answering the questions. Besides, wearing and removing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before and at the end of each shift took several minutes, which also went uncompensated. Salinas, therefore, filed a lawsuit against his employer for failure to pay minimum wages and for all hours worked.
If the court finds in favor of Salinas and the other plaintiffs in the class action, Purina might have to fork out several million dollars in settlement checks. Jimmy John’s had to pay $1.8 million to 66 store managers, whereas the Wackenhut Corporation paid $100 million to security officers who accused it of failing to provide meal and rest breaks as stipulated by California law.
9. Moore, et al v. Mars Petcare US Inc., et al
Tamara Moore and five other pet owners brought a putative class action lawsuit against four pet food manufacturers, one of which was Nestle Purina Petcare Company. Other defendants included two veterinary clinic chains and a pet goods retailer.
According to the plaintiffs, the defendants conspired with each other to promote pet food as “prescription only.” The plaintiffs reasoned the requirement for a prescription pet food was unnecessary considering that the food did not contain any drugs or special ingredients absent in the regular pet food.
As a result of the prescription pet food, the plaintiffs and other retail consumers paid more than they would have, had they known of the manipulation. The prescription antitrust class action lawsuit named Purina as the second largest supplier of pet food worldwide and by promoting “prescription” pet food, they were abusing their dominant market positions and taking advantage of consumers. The case was however dismissed with prejudice.
8. Fuehrer, et al v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company, Inc. – $800,000
A couple from Allentown filed a lawsuit against the pet food maker on August 11 2020 alleging that they had been negatively impacted by the Nestle Purina plant located 1.75 miles away from their property. According to Pennsylvania Record, Mark and Lori Fuehrer said that the plant produced noxious odors that invaded their property.
The suit further explained that since Purina began using a new cooking operation in July 2017, the odors had significantly increased. Nestle Purina disposed of organic waste on-site which smelled like decaying animal matter. When combined with odors from the processing plant, the negative impact on the lives of Mark and Lori was too much to ignore.
They hardly enjoyed life on their property and wanted to be compensated for the discomfort they had been forced to endure. The two parties in the Purina lawsuit entered a settlement to end the suit. Under the terms of the settlement, Purina would pay $800,000 within 30 days effective from the settlement date.
The plaintiffs would not receive the entire amount since litigation expenses and attorney fees would be deducted from the sum; the plaintiffs would receive the remaining amount.
7. Randall v. Merrick Petcare, Inc, et al – $5 Million
Consumers prefer “Made in USA” goods and are always on the lookout for such products. It is therefore no wonder that some manufacturers like Purina have resorted to deceptive marketing by using such enticing labels even when the products are made elsewhere.
In 2016, Sean Randall sued Purina and Merrick alleging that the two companies had been labeling cat and dog food as being made in the USA yet they contained ingredients sourced from other countries. Randall filed the $5 million lawsuit against the pet food makers.
He said that Organix cat food has the label “Made with Love in the USA” yet contains foreign ingredients. The plaintiff further alleged that the foreign ingredients had caused the death of hundreds of pets in 2007.
Another person, Marsha Sensenig brought forward a similar suit against Purina and Merrick. She also alleged false advertising with the “Made in USA” labels that led her into buying the pet food. Thus, she wanted to recover the damages she incurred by paying a premium price for products that were not worth the price attached to them.
6. Lucido v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company – $5 Million
Frank Lucido sued Purina in February 2015, alleging that the company’s product, Beneful contained toxins and as a result, one of his canines died and two others fell ill after consuming it. He said that Purina failed to sufficiently test for the toxins in the food and it did not also disclose their presence.
True to Lucido’s claims, there was the presence of toxins from 28 samples collected and analyzed. The toxic substances included arsenic and lead, fungal mold on the grains, mycotoxins, and propylene glycol.
The Purina lawsuit attracted 26 more plaintiffs who had undergone the same experience as Lucido. Purina continued denying the allegations, claiming them to be false and unsubstantiated. It claimed that the propylene glycol in the food was high-quality.
The animal toxicologist said that although he could not be sure that the toxins caused the dogs to die or fall sick, chronic exposure would affect their health. The class action was seeking $5 million in damages in November 2016 but the case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence that the dog food, not other factors, was the cause of death and illness.
5. Adkins v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company et al – $6.5 Million
According to NBC News, Dennis Adkins filed a complaint against the pet food maker in April 2012. Adkins claimed that his dog, Cleo had passed away in March 2012 after consuming dog treats manufactured by Purina. He was not the only one to lose his pet to the jerky treats so the affected pet owners joined hands to file a lawsuit against Purina claiming the treats sickened or killed their pets.
For two years, the Purina lawsuit dragged on in court with the company never admitting to any wrongdoing. The manufacturer finally agreed to settle the case in 2014 with the director of communications then explaining that although there was no indication the treats sickened the pets, it was important for everyone to move forward. Purina, therefore, agreed to pay $6.5 million in the settlement.
4. McLane v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company
On April 16, 2018, Robert McLane filed a lawsuit against Purina claiming that the company had violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to McLane, he was fired from his job due to having serious health issues. The plaintiff further alleged that Purina discriminated against him because of his age and ended up firing him.
McLane also explained that the company might have perceived him to be disabled due to his request for accommodations therefore they terminated his employment. Following the termination, McLane insisted that he had suffered financial damages and pain for which he sought compensation through actual compensatory and punitive damages.
The Purina lawsuit took the pet food manufacturer by surprise and they released a statement saying that after carrying out thorough investigations following the complaint, they found that McLane’s suit was without merit. The spokesperson insisted that Purina takes discrimination charges seriously since such behavior goes against its core values.
Discrimination lawsuits are not taken lightly and McLane stood to bag millions if the jury found in favor of the plaintiff. According to SHRM, a jury awarded $10 million to a white man who filed a discrimination lawsuit against Novant Healthcare.
3. Smith v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company
In April 2013, Paul J. Smith slipped and fell while working inside a grain silo on a construction project. The slip and fall which happened as Smith stepped off a ladder and landed on the accumulated grain and hose in the silo resulted in the plaintiff being injured.
As a result, he sued his employer, Purina, but the courts dismissed the case citing that the injury resulted from a wholly unrelated danger that the ladder could have caused. The court added that grain dust was an integral part of Smith’s work and there was an issue of fact regarding whether the hose constituted a scattered tool. There was therefore no common law negligence.
Had the court found in favor of the plaintiff, Purina stood to lose millions in settlement. According to Adam S. Kutner, some of the largest slip and fall settlements include a $13 million cheque to a woman who shopped at Lowe’s Home Center, Las Vegas. She slipped on a wet substance in the store’s gardening department since there were no warning cones in plain sight.
The slip and fall resulted in serious health issues comprising brain hemorrhage, a fractured skill, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain in the head and neck. The $13 million was, therefore, to compensate the victim for all her suffering, including the lost earning company. Unfortunately, Smith failed to prove negligence in the personal injury case.
2. Barker, et al v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company
Michelle Barker, Carrie Carter, and Susanna Grigoli were the lead plaintiffs in a Purina lawsuit accusing the pet food manufacturer of false advertising. They alleged that some of the products were labeled soy-free and wheat-free yet they contained soy and wheat respectively.
Grigoli started feeding her dog a grain-free diet after a vet recommended it so she bought the Purina Beneful pet food. She claimed to have spent lots of money on the pet food yet her dog did not improve and thus sought compensation because had she known of the true ingredients, she would not have paid the premium price for it. The plaintiffs were also seeking punitive and statutory damages.
A federal court in Missouri however scrapped the case under the state’s consumer protection laws. False advertising cases have cost many companies millions of dollars. Opendoor for instance had to pay $62 million to settle a suit by the Federal Trade Commission.
1. Nestle Purina Petcare Co. v. Blue Buffalo Co.
On May 6. 2014, the plaintiff, Purina, filed a lawsuit accusing Blue Buffalo of falsely advertising its pet food products as being free of poultry by-products. The suit was after tests revealed that Blue Buffalo’s top-selling pet food products contained poultry by-products.
As a result, Purina felt the rival pet food manufacturer was misleading the consumers. Blue Buffalo claimed its products were always formulated with the finest products and did not contain poultry by-products, soy, wheat, or artificial preservatives.
However, Blue Buffalo countersued a week later, also claiming defamation, false advertising, unfair competition, and trade practice violations. It took one year for Blue Buffalo to admit that its pet foods contained poultry by-products despite leading consumers that they did not.
Blue Buffalo had spent at least $50 million annually on advertising campaigns to convince consumers the products were free of poultry by-products. Consequently, consumers paid a hefty premium in return for the products.
Blue Buffalo blamed its broker, Diversified Ingredients, for deceiving it into believing it sold high-quality chicken and not by-products. Still, it had to part with $32 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought against it by pet owners. As for the settlement between the two rival pet food manufacturers, the terms remained confidential.
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