Pet Company Sued After Recall

Five individuals filed a putative class action complaint on Tuesday in the Southern District of Indiana against Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc., asking the court to provide relief to pet-owners who purchased Sportmix Pet Foods which have since been recalled after causing over 70 dogs to die from consuming high levels of aflatoxins. 

The plaintiffs, Stephanie Romero, David Starnes, Staci Foote, Ashley Lill, and Crystal Fabela, each reportedly owned dogs that ate the Sportmix pet foods; four of them had dogs who died after eating the food or were euthanized because of sickness they contracted, and one had dogs that required veterinary care and hospitalization after eating the food. 

Tuesday’s complaint explained that “the FDA cautions pet s are highly susceptible to aflatoxin poisoning because they generally eat the same food continuously over extended periods of time. If a pet’s food contains aflatoxins, the toxins could accumulate in the pet’ s system as a result.” 

The initial recall, on the Sportmix pet foods occurred on December 30 and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent out a press release alerting the public that 28 dogs had died after eating the pet food. The recall was expanded on January 11 to include any pet foods made with corn as an ingredient at the Midwestern Pet Foods Oklahoma plant. The FDA reported with the expanded recall that at least 70 dogs had died and 80 additional dogs had become ill allegedly from consuming the contaminated pet food.  

The five plaintiffs said that Midwestern Pet Foods misrepresented its products because it claimed they were “100% guaranteed for taste and nutrition.” They explained that they paid a higher price for the foods based on the company’s representations that it would be good for the health of their pets, and claimed the defendant “misrepresented or omitted the risk of sickness and even death from aflatoxin contamination.” 

Additionally, the plaintiffs said that the insurance claims process is faulty and burdensome because it requires documents and evaluations from veterinarians and toxicologists. They also purported that the claims process should have been made public along with the recall notice, which did not contain information about refunds for purchase of the pet foods. 

The complaint explained that some pets will have lasting health care costs due to aflatoxin poisoning, and other pets owners will have veterinary bills for end-of-life care and have suffered the loss of a pet. The plaintiffs asked the court to require Midwestern Pet Foods to notify class members of the lawsuit, award actual and statutory damages, rule that the defendant should restore profits from the unjust enrichment of their products, and provide injunctive relief. 

This lawsuit follows at least two other class-action complaints in the Southern District of Indiana against the defendant, one filed on January 15 by Tammy Johnson and another on January 13 by Tiffany Carlson, who reportedly has two sick dogs who have not yet recovered after a virtual visit where her veterinarian suggested she stop feeding the dogs the Sportmix food. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Cohen & Malad, LLP; Andersen Sleater Siani LLC; and Elsner Law & Policy, LLC