“100% Natural” Chicken Suit on Hold Pending Ninth Circuit Decision

A lawsuit filed by In Defence of Animals (IDA) and Friends of the Earth (FoE) against Sanderson Farms, Inc. is being placed on hold to wait for the Ninth Circuit’s ruling on a similar lawsuit alleging false advertising from Sanderson with one of the same plaintiffs. The present suit alleged that antibiotics given to the farm’s chickens is endangering human health and that the company uses misleading representations about its practices raising chickens for human consumption. 

The complaint, filed in late July, said the company’s advertising, which said their products were “100% Natural” led consumers to believe that the chickens were not given any antibiotics or other chemicals and were raised in a natural environment. 

On Wednesday, the Northern District of California filed an Order with the schedule one day after the parties filed a stipulation asking the court to approve a stay until the decision in the Ninth Circuit suit, or until 120 days from the previous deadline for the defendant’s responsive pleading, on April 2, 2021. 

The Ninth Circuit lawsuit has not had any activity in the last month, but an oral argument occurred was held on October 13. The suit came before the Ninth Circuit in August of 2019, in an appeal from the same Northern District of California court. The plaintiffs, who are the appellants in the suit argued that they had standing for appeal and that the defendant had sought to “suppress” the party’s declarations. They asked the court to reverse the decision and send the matter back to the district court. 

Sanderson, however, argued that the district court ruled correctly that the plaintiffs did not “divert resources” due to Sanderson’s alleged misleading advertising, but continued usual business after they learned, and thus did not have standing. The Ninth Circuit suit addresses the same “100% Natural”  claim and cites California’s False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition Law. 

The parties in the Northern District of California suit will meet the week of April 5, 2021, to determine scheduling if there is not a decision in the Ninth Circuit suit, if there is, the parties will meet within 21 days of the date of the decision. 

IDA and FoE are represented by The Law Office of Paige Tomaselli and Elsner Law & Policy. In the Ninth Circuit lawsuit, two plaintiffs, including FoE and the Center for Food Safety, are represented by the same counsel, and the Organic Consumers Association does not have listed counsel. Sanderson Farms, the defendant in both lawsuits, is represented by Kirkland & Ellis