By Dr. Becker
Last year in Pittsburgh, pet owner Lisa Mazur filed a federal class-action suit against Del Monte, producer of Milo’s Kitchen chicken jerky treats made in China. Mazur’s healthy 7-year-old dog suffered kidney failure and had to be euthanized after eating the jerky treats occasionally for about a month.
Mazur claims that despite an FDA warning about the treats, Del Monte did not initiate a recall or put warnings on the packages. According to her complaint, “Defendants [Del Monte] intentionally concealed known facts concerning the safety of their dog treats in order to increase or maintain sales."
Mazur is seeking punitive damages for common law fraud, unjust enrichment, negligence, product liability, unfair trade, breach of warranty, failure to warn and defective manufacture or design.
Judge Rules “A Defect Exists” in Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky Treats
In September 2012, Del Monte and Milo’s Kitchen filed to dismiss Mazur’s complaint. U.S. Magistrate Judge Maureen Kelly wrote that Mazur’s claims:
“…appear sufficient to permit the inference that a defect exists in Milo’s chicken jerky treats and that the defect is the most likely explanation for the illness suffered by plaintiff’s dog by eliminating other reasonable causes.”
Kelly recommended that only the “unjust enrichment” portion of the claim be dismissed. She found Mazur’s claims:
“…more than sufficient to place defendants on notice of the precise misconduct with which they are charged.” Kelly added that Mazur’s claims “more than adequately set forth losses suffered by plaintiff… that are distinct from the disappointed expectations evolving solely from the purchase of defendants’ products; they clearly articulate property damage in the form of harm to… pets.”
On June 25 of this year, U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon adopted Judge Kelly’s recommendations.
Additional Lawsuits Against Del Monte and Milo’s Kitchen
In June 2012, another dog owner sued Del Monte/Milo’s in Los Angeles when her dog suffered kidney failure from chicken jerky treats and nearly died. And a third pet owner filed a claim in San Francisco last September, but voluntarily dismissed his case in February.
In April of this year, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White moved to transfer two other Northern California cases to Pittsburgh where Lisa Mazur’s case is pending.
Federal Class Action Lawsuit Also Pending Against Nestlé Purina Petcare and Waggin’ Train
In April 2012, a Chicago-area dog owner named Dennis Adkins filed his own federal class-action lawsuit against Nestlé Purina Petcare, and their Waggin’ Train pet treat brand. Adkins lost his 9-year-old Pomeranian after the dog ate Waggin’ Train’s Yam Good dog treats. His lawsuit expanded to include seven other pet owners across the U.S. and may join with another lawsuit filed by a Connecticut pet owner.
In addition to suing the treat’s manufacturer, the Adkins lawsuit also names as defendants Wal-Mart, Target, and Costco (retailers of Waggin’ Train treats).
I haven’t been able locate any updates on this lawsuit, but should any of the named defendants attempt to have the case dismissed, here’s hoping the judge(s) hearing this one will see things the same way U.S. Magistrate Judge Maureen Kelly and U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon did with the suit against Del Monte and Milo’s Kitchen.
It’s an absolute disgrace that so many families have lost or nearly lost beloved pets since 2007 when the toxic jerky pet treat situation was first identified. It’s a tragedy that thousands of animals have suffered after eating tainted treats. The reports of pet illness and death have steadily mounted over a six-year period while the FDA has tried and failed miserably to locate the source of the problem. Meanwhile, the manufacturers and retailers of suspect treats have refused to acknowledge a connection between their products and ill and dead dogs. They have refused to print warnings on product packaging or store shelves. They have refused until recently to issue voluntary recalls.
They should be held accountable.