December 18, 2008
Pet food court settlement hung up by appeals
23,000 pet owners filed claims to date
By: Edie Lau
For The VIN News Service
A $24-million payout to settle class-action suits stemming from
melamine poisoning in pet food last year is hung up by two court
appeals, a lawyer for plaintiffs said Wednesday.
several objections to the settlement, and all those objections were
denied by the trial court judge,” said Russell Paul, lead co-counsel
for the class. “However, two of the objectors have appealed. Those
appeals have to be considered.”
Meanwhile, claims administrators
have received more than 23,000 claims and counting, said Paul, who
works in the firm Berger & Montague PC in Philadelphia.
settlement covers claims by pet owners and consumers in the United
States and Canada. U.S. plaintiffs had to submit their claims by Nov.
24, but Canadian claimants have until Jan. 26 to apply for
reimbursement of their economic damages. The settlement was approved in
Canadian court in late November, more than six weeks following U.S.
Paul said he does not know the total value of claims
submitted but said each will be evaluated for reasonableness. “The
claim forms and attached documentary evidence will be vetted
carefully,” he said. “There are clearly fraudulent claims sometimes.”
The accounting and consulting firm Heffler, Radetich & Saitta LLP in Philadelphia is handling claims administration.
expenses for reimbursement include the cost of veterinary treatment,
death-related expenses, the cost of the dead pet or its fair market
value (whichever is higher), and the cost of a new pet, according to
information on the website www.petsettlement.com
Paul said the
appeals were filed by plaintiffs who have legal objections to the
settlement as approved. He could not estimate when the appeals will be
decided, nor how long it will take claims administrators to review all
He said claimants are unlikely to receive any communications about their claims until the awards are decided.
settlement addresses more than 100 class action lawsuits filed after
the industrial chemical melamine turned up in wet pet food last year.
Investigators found that suppliers in China of wheat gluten, a
vegetable protein, had added nitrogen-rich melamine to falsely inflate
the gluten’s apparent protein content.
The melamine, along with
the chemical byproduct cyanuric acid, together formed crystals in the
kidneys of cats and dogs that ate the tainted food, leading in some
cases to renal failure and death. Some 150 brands of pet food were
affected. The long list of defendants include Menu Foods, Nestle Purina
PetCare Co., Walmart, PETCO, PetSmart, Target, Iams, Del Monte, Mars,
Inc., Nutro Products, Inc. and Costco.
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