Menu Foods Bullies Pet Owners To Settle Food Contamination Lawsuits

Menu Foods’ latest strategy to become the most hated company since Halliburton has revealed itself in some interesting court papers.

According to USAToday, Menu Foods has been ordered to have no further contact with owners of pets who were injured or killed by its contaminated pet food, unless the pet owner’s lawyer is present. Why? Apparently, Menu Foods has been bullying the bereaved to settle their lawsuits and sign various papers that waive their rights. From USAToday:

Ontario, Canada-based Menu Foods has hired Crawford & Co., an insurance adjustor in Atlanta, to contact pet owners who called the company to report animal illnesses or deaths, according to the hearing transcript.

At a previous hearing on Friday, May 18, the judge had cautioned Menu and Crawford that they should not contact people who had joined one of the lawsuits against the company. Legally, Menu cannot contact those plaintiffs directly but must go through their lawyers.

But in affidavits presented in court Wednesday, pet owners said they received calls that weekend from Crawford representatives who pressed them to answer questions even after being told the owners had hired lawyers. In some cases, the pet owners also received multiple calls from Crawford’s computerized phone banks after telling representatives they were represented by attorneys, according to the affidavits.

“Menu’s representatives asked owners to sign releases which waived their right to get advice from a lawyer,” said attorney Jay Edelson in an interview.

Look, let’s be realistic here, you killed 8,000 pets. You’re going to get sued. People sue companies for much more frivolous crap than piles and piles of dead kitty cats. And they win.

Court: Menu Foods harassed pet owners [USAToday]

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  1. catnapped says:

    Is anyone *really* surprised by any of this? Next thing you know Menu Foods will be implying “It’s your own damn fault for feeding Fluffy our food–grow up and get over it!”

  2. mantari says:

    “This is YOUR FAULT. Why didn’t you take better care of your pet as not to allow it to be poisoned?”

  3. swalve says:

    Menu is probably pissed because they figured they were more lawsuit proof than they actually are because their brand name wasn’t on the food.

    Where does making settlement offers end and harassment begin?

  4. Buran says:

    @swalve: I’d say, when you call people with robocall gizmos who aren’t directly your customers and who have no ‘business relationship’ with you.

  5. bluegus32 says:

    @swalve: Where does making settlement offers end and harassment begin?

    When you start contacting people directly who you know are represented by counsel. That is just plain old unethical.

  6. TechnoDestructo says:

    This is probably not going to help them in court.

    I don’t expect Menu Foods to exist after this is all over. Jeez.

  7. lincolnparadox says:

    @TechnoDestructo: They’ll exist, at least long enough to get gobbled up by a larger corporation.

    Let’s put some perspective on this story. The most expensive dog you can buy in the US is an English Bulldog, which run from $1000 to $2500 for pure-bred. Now, let’s pretend all of those poisoned pets are top-choice, English Bulldogs. Let’s add high-end obedience training to the bill, they are pure-breeds, for around $1200 or more. So, each of those dogs is worth, at most, $3700. Menu Foods’ US headquarters is in New Jersey, so the cap on punitive damages is five times liability, or $350,000 max. Let’s say the judge in the class action suit is a dog/cat lover. That means that each person is entitled to, at most, $22,000. A mass settlement would be around $178 million.

    I’m pretty sure that would kill a pet food company, and most of them would want to offer the plaintiffs individual settlements, to decrease the impact of the class action suits. Most people would take a $1000 to $3000 settlement, out of court and that could save the company tens of millions.

  8. dieman says:

    Imagine the cost of dogs for breeding rights, if someone got nailed out of their profession (ie: small scale ultra-high quality breeding) expect insane damage costs. If they lost a good amount of prime breeding stock theres concivebly $10k+ invested in some of these animals.

    Of course, why the heck a ‘ultra-high’ quality breeder would be feeding anything but organic or something like solid gold is beyond me.

  9. Namilia says:

    All I have to say about Menu Foods is good riddance. I’m still bitter over my own cat, but unfortunately have no proof that she died as a result of this (her food wasn’t on the recall). All I know is that a day before the recalls began I took her in to the vet because she was vomiting and had diarrhea and was losing a LOT of weight, after the recalls began the doctor just kept nickel and diming me for this test or that test, calamine shot, etc..and I could no longer afford the bills on her (It was at $500-600 by now). Two weeks later, the day before her next appointment, she made a turn for the worse and was found lying in complete pain, yowling her heart out. She had been quite lethargic those two weeks, and had had 2-3 episodes of pain like this (which I did what i could, I tried to comfort her) but that was the last straw, I couldn’t bear to see her in so much pain. She was put down the same day, and I still haven’t gotten over it. She was only 6 years old so it was not like she was a very old cat, but in the three to four months prior to this she had eaten exclusively wet food; mostly Meow Mix in the variety packets with the occasional Pounce Treat (her favorite). I saved the last box that it came in, but since no autopsy was done (money again), I have no veritable proof she died of renal failure. As such, I do not believe I can report her death :( I apologize on going on such a tangent in this thread, but I didn’t know if anyone else had any advice or something similar happen..

    I hope Menu Foods burns in hell for what they have done to so many pets and their owners.

  10. Namilia says:

    @Namilia: To clarify; when I said “i have no proof she died of renal failure” I realize I had her put down, but when the vet saw her he said that she was dying as it were, and would have been dead within a week I believe. He also said that when she was hiding in her kennel (a place she ordinarily abhorred as it meant she was going to the vet) she was looking for a place to die. I was trying to ease the pain on her by putting her down, an action that left me in quite a bit of tears and emotional pain (she was my baby kitty..loved her so much).

  11. brettkc says:

    I for one wouldn’t settle for a measly $3,000 for my dog.

    How much do Doctor’s get sued for malpractice when they kill a family member? You can’t place a price on it.

  12. vanilla-fro says:

    Can’t believe Crawford & Co. would contact anyone with an attorney directly, well I guess I can but still. Big no-no in the adjuster world.

    Also menu foods should be ashamed, why try to get out of it in some underhanded way if you can blame someone else once it gets to trial.

  13. bluegus32 says:

    @brettkc: a lawsuit for a dog is different from a lawsuit for humans. Many states consider pets to be property. So the emotional value of the pet may not necessarily be compensable.

  14. Keter says:

    This whole thing has put me off ever buying any pre-made pet food again. I now cook for my dogs, and the payoff has been nothing short of astonishing. After only a little more than a month, all have thicker, glossier fur, and the dog that was acting very sick (3 trips to the vet + diagnostic tests = $300 = no diagnosis) is completely recovered. But the most amazing result was with the 16 year old…we thought he was just old and arthritic. Now he’s running and jumping and seems free of pain — for the first time in about 6 years. His eyes, which were getting cloudy, are now clear.

    I was feeding the high-end organic brands exclusively…$40-$50 per bag that lasted not quite 2 weeks. I now spend slightly less than that to feed fresh hamburger, vegetables, herbs and cereal grains. My experience with these dogs indicates that not only was the contamination going on for years, the high-end foods were contaminated as well, and they are “quality” only in the same way that a giant douche might be preferable to a turd sandwich.

    Moral of the story: don’t buy any processed food. Ever.

  15. szamot says:

    …so there is going to be about 1.5 mil new cancer cases in US alone this year and about 600,000 of those people are going to die miserable death but we are still talking about 8000 stinking cats and dogs that died from some shitty food. That really concerns me a lot. Organic food for Muffy and Fluffy while 2/3 of the world is starving to death.

    Can I please give your head a shake? …with a 2×4 or something like that.

  16. crankymediaguy says:

    “Organic food for Muffy and Fluffy while 2/3 of the world is starving to death.”

    No question that starvation among the human population is a horrifying problem, but if no one fed their dog or cat organic food, would that problem somehow be solved?

    The one does not cause the other.

    Would I be correct in guessing that you assume that people who treat their pets well (or spoil them, if you wish) are indifferent to human suffering? Why make that assumption? There’s no evidence for it. It is entirely possible for a person to care about both humans and animals.

    Also, why we’re on the subject, what have YOU done to alleviate human starvation? Using your apparent logic, since you don’t feed your pets organic food, you MUST have done SOMETHING tangible about the human situation, right?

  17. Elijah says:

    If Menu foods is contacting claimants who are represented by counsel, they are handling claims in bad faith and this could bring punitive damages, on top of any monetary awards.

    However, if Menu foods is contacting claimants who have not informed Menu of being represented by counsel, or their attorney has not contacted Menu, then Menu should receive a “release of all claims” in exchange for any payment made on the claim. This would indeed waive customers right to future claims, which is standard in most settlement agreements.

    Keep in mind that this is a property damage claim. Therefore plaintiffs are not entitled to emotional distress, missed time from work, etc. By law, this claim is the same as having a windstorm rip the roof of your house. You may have it replaced or have it paid at actual cash value, depending upon your home policy.

    I find it interesting that Menu lists the different “Class Action Attorney’s” on their website! Menu would rather you obtain a lawyer because the payout will be much less. And ofcourse, the lawyers will get all the money and the plaintiff’s will most likely not see a penney. Remeber the class action asbestos lawsuit years ago? Enough said….

    Bottom line, if you can settle a claim with Menu directly, you will fare much better than participating in class action suit.

  18. szamot says:

    @crankymediaguy. Dude I think you are too stressed and your cat needs to send you a get well card.

    …. yes considering that most pet food uses corn and other grains as filler, if you are lucky, melamine if you are not, then yes your organic food for Muffy and Fluffy is adding to the poverty of the starving in the world.

    ..what have I done to improve the human situation? I left some glycol in a dish for Fluffy to quench his thirst on. No more Fluffy, no feline shit in the flower beds, neighbors are happy. That’s probably more than you have done.

  19. GeneReed says:

    Stop buying anything from China, it will kill you,mur your family and your pets.

    My name is Donna, and Gene and I just lost our 9 year old female Akita Meiko. She was MURDERED. Murdered by Wal-Mart who continued to sell the Bestro Chicken Jerky made in China even though they knew it was tainted with Melamine. She became ill June 15, 2007. She began vomiting everything we fed her. The vet came to the house to draw blood and take urine to see if he could determine what was causing her illness. She was in renal failure. Her creatine had gone from 3 to 14. We started an IV on her. We had IV poles and pumps on every floor in our home. We ran 54 liters of ringers through her in 72 hours. They retested her blood and her creatine had gone back down to 3, but her kidneys were permanently damaged and she would be on an expensive K-D diet the rest of her life. But we were still at a loss as to how Meiko came down with acute Kidney Failure. Within a couple of days of bringing her back to some level of normality a chief executive from Tyson Foods who spends a great deal of time at our home called to see if we were still feeding our pets chicken jerky from Wal-Mart. We said yes it is their favorite treat. He said to stop immediately that it was tainted with melamine and that was what was killing her. We thought we had her on the mend when she began vomiting again in September. The vet once again came and drew blood and took a urine sample. Her creatine was 15 this time. The damage that was done from continuing to feed her the chicken jerky was too great, we were not able to save her life, but we are still desperately trying to save the lives of our other 2 pets Yoshi and Chopper because they all ate the same damn jerky and the other two are both peeing whole blood. Had they pulled the jerky from the shelves and made a public recall, Meiko would still be alive today.

    Our beautiful baby daughter is buried in our garden. Beware of what Wal-Mart sells and what they import and the country it is imported from. Not only do they import tainted pet food and pet treats, but they also sell the toys painted with lead paint and the baby bibs, etc. They do not care about you, your family or your pets, they only care about the almighty dollar and their bottom line. When we contacted Wal-Mart about Meiko, they sent us a letter stating that “Claims Management, Inc. manages claims on behalf of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and that they were very sorry to hear of the incident which involved chicken jerky. At this time we would like to share some information with you regarding the claims handling process. Upon reviewing your claim, CMI tendered the claim to the product supplier; Shanghai Bestro Trading. If you do not hear from the supplier in the next 10 days, please feel from to contact them directly 011-86-21-5848-6661. This is an overseas phone number.

    This is your great Wal-Mart at its best, they don’t want to take responsibility for what they imported and sold at their stores. It may cost us more, but we no longer shop at Wal-Mart or any of its subsidiaries.

  20. KonradHecate says:

    Comment on Menu Foods Bullies Pet Owners To Settle Food Contamination Lawsuits This thread is about menu foods. I feel sorry for anyone who lost a pet. The bloggers who bring up inappropriate comments should find another place to post their viewpoints.
    I lost a great cat feeding her moist food as a ‘treat’. The fact that this lawsuit is regarding over a 100 different makes of pet food should concern all Americans, even if they do not have pets.
    How many other overseas products and food are entering this country that is potentially fatal?
    As others posted pets are only considered property. Some states would not award a penny to a pet owner if they can not show the ‘cost of the property’. While I saved my cat found abandoned on the side of a highway in the eyes of the court it was FREE. This cat was a great companion, and when she turned up dead our family was crushed. I am glad to be part of a class action suit and that the lawyers took the case to New Jersey. At least this state may award any pet owner with proof of feeding contaminated food $15,000 regardless if it was a mutt or a stray.
    Some folks consider pets their kids, so Menu foods should pay dearly for not acting responsible considering they were the largest private label pet food manufacturer in North America. People made intentional decisions to use the tainted raw materials for months. They conducted autopies on a number of animals and still let their poison sit on the shelves until the public was made aware of the issue thru the media.