Conagra Argues Against Request to Amend “100% Natural” Oil Class-Action Complaint

Conagra Brands Inc. argued in a response on Friday that the court should deny the request from Margaret Lee and other plaintiffs in her putative class-action suit to modify their complaint, calling the request a “years-late attempt … to conform to the proper requirements.” 

Lee, represented by Shapiro Haber & Urmy, alleged that Conagra, along with retailer defendants, Roche Bros. Supermarkets, Inc. and The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company LLC, sold to herself and the putative class Wesson brand oil, including vegetable, canola, corn, and blended oils, which purported to be “Pure and 100% Natural” but contained unnatural ingredients, according to the Amended Complaint filed in 2017. The plaintiff purported that the Wesson brand oil is made from plants which were altered by introducing DNA from other species. 

The defendant claimed that the plaintiff “request(ed) a third bite at the pleading apple” at this point in litigation because Conagra moved for summary judgment, but that the request did not have convincing evidence to justify the court to allow her request. Conagra also accused the plaintiff of “playing games with her proposed amended complaint.” 

The plaintiff asked the court to allow them to file an amended complaint on November 6, claiming that the case is still at its early stages, because Conagra’s answer to the 2017 complaint was only a few months old. The amended complaint reportedly removes references to the retailer defendants. It also withdraws the plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief, noting that Conagra sold the Wesson Oil brand and injunctive relief is no longer needed. 

In Friday’s motion the defendant said that this motion by the plaintiff “continues her transparent attempts to muddy the waters on that issue by continuing to assert that ‘no demand was required’ while at the same time arguing that ‘her demand complied with Chapter 93A’ and therefore Conagra should be prejudiced for not responding to that demand.” Conagra said the plaintiff did not recognize that she had an opportunity from the defendant to amend her complaint before it moved for summary judgement, specifically after the defendant raised the deficiencies. 

Conagra, represented by Alston & Bird LLP and Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP, asked the court to deny the plaintiff’s motion to submit the amended complaint and, if it does permit the complaint, to do it “in an order expressly protecting Conagra’s ch. 93A tender rights and remedies.”