Class Action News

Toxic Dog Food Class Action Stumbles on Jurisdiction

Dec. 31, 2018, 2:56 PM

A class action alleging Champion premium dog food has excessive levels of toxic heavy metals may not have been filed in the right court, a federal court said Dec. 28.

The defendants and the conduct alleged aren’t sufficiently connected to Tennessee to justify the court’s jurisdiction over the case, Judge Eli Richardson wrote for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

The court gave the plaintiff until Jan. 14 to amend his complaint to explain why it has jurisdiction.

Matthew D. Ficarelli sued Champion Petfoods USA Inc. and Champion Petfoods LP alleging its premium Orijen and Acana dog food brands are contaminated with excessive quantities of heavy metals that are toxic to dogs.

Ficarelli says he paid too much for the food, which he bought because of Champion’s deceptive advertisements.

The court granted Champion’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

The court lacks general personal jurisdiction over the defendants because neither is incorporated or principally does business in Tennessee, the court said.

The court also lacks specific jurisdiction, it held. Ficarelli didn’t say he bought the dog food in Tennessee, but rather in Florida where he lived previously.

“This is a critical flaw in the complaint because it is plaintiff’s purchase of the products that gives rise to this lawsuit,” the court said. “Although the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the court cannot reasonably infer that plaintiff purchased the dog food in Tennessee.”

Barnow and Associates P.C. and Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP represented the pet owners.

Greenberg Traurig LLP and Patterson Intellectual Property Law P.C. represented Champion.

The case is Ficarelli v. Champion Petfoods USA, Inc., 2018 BL 481971, M.D. Tenn., No. 3:18-cv-361, 12/28/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Perry Cooper in Washington at pcooper@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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