No Nationwide Class Suit Over Alleged Pet Food Contamination

By Bruce Kaufman

California pet owners suing WellPet LLC for allegedly selling dog food contaminated with toxic substances can’t represent pet owners outside the Golden State.

The three California plaintiffs—two pet owners and a dog sitting business—can’t advance a nationwide class action because the suit lacks representatives from other states, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled Jan. 17.

The plaintiffs may continue to seek class action status, but only on behalf of California residents who purchased WellPet products allegedly contaminated with arsenic, lead, or Bisphenol A.

The court acted on the class action issue now, rather than waiting until the class certification stage, because the plaintiffs’ request for nationwide discovery would create “significant” additional burdens, Judge William H. Orrick said.

The court also rejected WellPet’s arguments that alleged misrepresentations on its product labels were merely vague assertions or subjective opinions, and therefore not actionable.

The product labels, which said the pet food was “undoubtedly safe,” “safe,” or “pure,” involve “measurable” assertions that plaintiffs seek to prove are false, the court said.

WellPet disputes claims that its pet food products are unsafe. Although the dog food at issue contains trace amounts of arsenic and lead, the concentrations are well within safety margins, the defendant said in court documents. The Bisphenol A allegations are false and unsupported, it said.

The court dismissed WellPet’s parent company, Pennsylvania-based Berwind Corp., for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Affected pet food products include Wellness CORE Adult Dry Ocean Whitefish, Herring and Salmon; and Wellness Complete Health Adult Dry Whitefish and Sweet Potato, the suit said.

Plainitffs’ attorneys include Robbins Arroyo. Defense attorneys include Shook Hardy & Bacon.

The case is Zeiger v. Wellpet LLC , 2018 BL 15500, N.D. Cal., No. 17-cv-04056-WHO, 1/17/18 .

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Kaufman in Washington at bkaufman@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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