Multiple class action and individual civil lawsuits have been filed against Hill’s Pet Nutrition over the month of February 2019 claiming the company was negligent in recalling many of its products for potentially containing toxic levels of vitamin D. The recall involved approximately 675,000 cases of canned dog food. Below are the known lawsuits filed against Hill’s on this subject.
Bone et al. v. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.
Florida citizen Kelly Bone, along with North Carolina citizen Christina Sawyer and New York citizen Janine Buckley, filed a class action lawsuit Feb. 11 against Hill’s in the US District Court for Eastern New York, claiming the company was aware or should have been aware that its products contained excess levels of vitamin D as early as February 2018. The suit argues, “As early as February of 2018, 11 dog owners began to complain that Hill’s Specialty Dog Foods were causing their pets to display symptoms consistent with vitamin D poisoning, such as “daily diarrhea, excessive thirst and constant food begging… As a result of online consumer complaints, Hill’s thus knew or should have known of the elevated vitamin D levels in the specialty dog foods by at least February of 2018.”
In the lawsuit, Bone et al. stated, “Not only has Hill’s sold contaminated food, but it has dragged its feet in issuing a recall and in including all contaminated food within the scope of the recall. Hill’s failure to promptly recall every contaminated product sold under the Prescription Diet and Science Diet lines is particularly egregious because it knew or should have known that these products contained toxic levels of vitamin D.” The suit also refers to the series of other pet food recalls related to excess levels of vitamin D starting in late 2018. All three plaintiffs in this class action suit experienced the death of a pet dog they believe was caused by the consumption of unsafe Hill’s pet food.
Russel v. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.
Also on Feb. 11, Florida residents Michael and Jodi Russell filed a class action lawsuit against Hill’s in the US District Court of Northern Florida. The couple filed the suit in response to the unexpected death of one of their dogs, Stella, who they fed Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care dog food to help with the dog’s pancreatitis. The Russell’s stated, “Mr. Russell spoke with the family vet on February 8, 2019, and was advised that, in the veterinarian’s opinion, ingestion of the Product was most likely the cause of Stella’s kidney failure. The veterinarian pointed out that the blood work performed before Stella ingested the Product showed normal renal function; but after ingesting the Product over many days Stella went into renal failure.”
The lawsuit filed by the Russell’s also claims the eight other brands who issued recalls in accordance with the US Food and Drug Administration beginning November 2018 share a common manufacturer with Hill’s.
Navarette v. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.
California citizen John Navarette filed a class action lawsuit against Hill’s on Feb. 12 in the US District Court for Northern California, claiming he had been misled by the company’s statements to purchase a product that did not meet the same nutritional standards promised by the company. Navarette purchased Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care dog food beginning Oct. 1, 2018 and fed it to his dog, Goliath. Navarette stopped feeding Goliath the food in late December 2018 after he became ill. Goliath has since recovered.
The lawsuit states, “At the time Navarrete purchased and fed the Recalled Products to his dog, due to the false and misleading claims, warranties, representations, advertisements, and other marketing by Defendant, Navarrete was unaware that the Recalled Products contained excessive amounts of vitamin D.”
The lawsuit also states, “Defendant [Hill’s] had a duty to disclose to Plaintiff [Navarette] and the Subclass [others affected by Hill’s recalled products] that the recalled products contained excessive and dangerous amounts of vitamin D for the following two independent reasons: (a) Defendant had exclusive knowledge of the information at the time of sale; and (b) Defendant made partial representations to Plaintiff and the Subclass regarding the safety, quality, and nutritional content of the Recalled Products.”
Such representations of safety, quality and nutritional content were listed in the lawsuit, including parts of Hill’s website that describe the brand’s products as “Precisely Balanced: The Right Nutrients in the Right Quantities,” among other examples.
Sun-Dampier v. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.
On Feb. 14, Jun Virginia Sun-Dampier filed a class action suit on behalf of California residents who purchased any of Hill’s products containing excess vitamin D in the past four years. Her case rests on six complaints, including several state consumer protection violations, fraud, negligence and unjust enrichment. Sun-Dampier was prompted to file the suit after suspecting her dog had consumed Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care dog food products containing toxic levels of vitamin D and died Dec. 23, 2018.
The lawsuit states, “On December 3, 2018, the FDA issued a press release warning pet owners about potentially toxic levels of vitamin D in several brands of pet food, and noting that it was working with a common contract manufacturer of pet food to provide a comprehensive list of affected brands. Yet despite this warning, Defendant did not issue a recall, and continued to manufacture and sell the Products with toxic levels of vitamin D for months afterward.”
Jubinville et al v. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.
Four women — Rhode Island citizen Jennifer Jubinville, Illinois citizen Jenna Sprengel, New York citizen Kelli Coppi, and Texas citizen Laura Freeman — on Feb. 15 filed a class action lawsuit against Hill’s questioning the validity of its nutritional claims in light of the vitamin D recall. The allegations mentioned in the lawsuit are similar to those made in Bone et al v. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.
The plaintiffs seeks monetary damages as well as, “an order forcing Hill’s to provide appropriate injunctive relief by ensuring that all potentially affected products are identified on Hill’s website and removed from shelves and that the public is adequately notified that they should not purchase and should immediately stop using the tainted food, and their dogs should be taken to a veterinarian for testing and whatever treatment is necessary.”
Paliseno et al. v. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.
On Feb. 22, Mississippi resident Diane Walton and New York resident Amanda Paliseno filed a class action lawsuit against Hill’s Pet Nutrition on the basis of false advertising. The lawsuit states, “As demonstrated by the recall discussed below and the thousands of sickened and dead dogs who consumed Hill’s Products, Defendant’s representations about quality, ingredient supply, and product manufacturing and oversight are false.” The lawsuit also alleges the company is not justified in charging a premium price for its products in light of the recall, claiming, “all class members despite having paid a premium price for supposedly healthy dog food marketed to be specifically formulated to address certain health concerns and to meet certain ingredient supply, quality, and manufacturing standards, did not receive what they paid for.”
Aside from issuing a recall for the affected product, Hill’s has provided no additional information or comments. In the initial recall, issued Jan. 31, 2019, the company stated, “We care deeply about all pets and are committed to providing pet parents with safe and high quality products. Hill’s has identified and isolated the error and, to prevent this from happening again, we have required our supplier to implement additional quality testing prior to their release of ingredients. In addition to our existing safety processes, we are adding our own further testing of incoming ingredients.”
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