Walmart Asks Court to Not Consolidate Baby Food Lawsuits Against it

Walmart Inc., one of the companies involved as a defendant in litigation regarding alleged heavy metals in baby food, filed a motion before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation against transferring the legal actions against it to the Eastern District of New York. 

The lawsuits involved in the consolidation stemmed from allegations that baby food companies are allowing toxic substances into the food, without warning consumers of their presence. Shortly after a House Subcommittee report claimed these metals were dangerous, a large group of lawsuits was filed

The company reported that three plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits began the consolidation efforts, which now includes almost 90 lawsuits. Walmart said that “plaintiffs and defendants across the universe of Underlying Actions” opposed consolidation, and that it agrees with them. The motion said that consolidating the actions would be inappropriate and would not align with civil procedure objectives.

Walmart said that even if the panel does decide to consolidate the actions, claims against it should not be included. “Unlike every other defendant in the Underlying Actions — and notwithstanding mistaken allegations in several complaints to the contrary — Walmart does not manufacture any of the baby food products at issue in the Underlying Actions.  To the contrary, Walmart is a retailer only.  Including a retailer in a manufacturer MDL would add unnecessary complexity to what is already likely to be an unwieldy litigation,” the motion said.

The defendant also noted that it is only a party in two of the lawsuits. Reportedly, in one of them it is the only defendant and the other involves a “highly individualized” matter as the plaintiff is seeking relief from specific injuries.

The company explained that although Wlamart sells baby foods under a private label, specifically Parent’s Choice and Parent’s Choice Organic, it is not the manufacturer of the foods.

Walmart is not the first defendant to oppose consolidation, multiple companies argued against it in April citing that they are competitors and use different products from different growers. Lawsuits filed against Hain Celestial Group were already consolidated in the Eastern District of New York.

Walmart is represented by Kirkland & Ellis LLP