Lawyers Set to Argue New Legal Theory in Pet-Poisoning Cases
Lynne Marek, The National Law Journal
Class action litigators and animal law attorneys are joining forces across the country to sue Menu Foods Inc. and pet food distributors over the poisoning of dogs and cats, with some lawyers aiming to set a new precedent in recoveries for pet-owner clients.
They may get bigger damages awards than from similar past cases partly because the incident is unique in the high number of pets — hundreds or perhaps thousands — that have been injured or killed by the poisoning, the lawyers said.
In the past, U.S. courts have viewed pets as property and therefore mainly allowed damages for the cost of an animal, which is typically low for most cats and dogs, and veterinarian bills. Efforts to recover for emotional distress over the loss of a companion animal have met with little success.
Some of the lawyers who have filed the lawsuits say they’ll argue that pets are “special property” that have an intrinsic value beyond market worth.
“In terms of real world value, that pet really is priceless,” said Jay Edelson, an attorney at Blim & Edelson in Chicago. “We think we have some arguments where we can recover those same types of damages, even if we have to do it under a different legal theory.”
Edelson filed a March 20 lawsuit on behalf of Dawn Majerczyk, whose 9-year-old cat Phoenix had to be euthanized on March 17 after the alleged poison in his Special Kitty Select Cuts caused the cat’s kidneys to shut down.
Phoenix’s death was devastating to Majerczyk and her two children, the lawsuit said. They spent $300 trying to save the cat, according to the filing. Majerczyk v. Menu Foods, No. 07CV1543 (N.D. Ill.).
The lawsuit alleges that Menu Foods, which is based in Streetsville, Canada, and has U.S. operations, knew the pet food could kill animals weeks before its March 16 recall, and that the company’s requirement that pet owners return tainted food in order to receive a refund is unethical.
Calls to Menu and pet food maker Iams Co. for comment weren’t immediately returned.
“They’re going to be the only witness as to whether the food was actually contaminated,” Edelson said. “You can’t do that. You can’t destroy evidence.”
This whole horror show is so disgusting. Even though none of the foods that I feed my cats were ever on the list of tainted foods, I still worry that they could be recalled at a later date. The only thing I can do right now is make sure none contain wheat gluten. I am not sure that is even enough on my part.
My best friend of almost 12 years died in my arms on my kitchen floor Monday March 26, 2007 at 3:13 p.m. It was the hardest thing I have been through in all my 32 years on this earth. 12 days prior, Dylan, started showing signs of being sick. He started to gag and vomit after he drank. As a pet owner, you think to yourself, ” no! not on my rug!” at first and then when the severity of the situation hits you, you rug seems to fade away in terms of importance. There is not much that I would not do to play with Dylan for one more day. The next day, I took him to the local vet by my college and the vet told me that Dylan was a lot sicker than I thought he was. He said that Dylan had to be hospitalized immediately. I stopped by the vet to visit Dylan every day for the next 7 days straight. They were very somber visits, for Dylan showed no signs of improvement. After 7 days with no water or food and surviving only because of the IV fluids that were being administered, I decided to call off work for the weekend and bring Dylan home where he was comfortable. I knew in my heart that the end was near. I brought Dylan home on Friday and I spent the next few days agonizing over the inevitable. After endless tears, I came to terms with what was about to happen. I gave Dylan one last hug and looked in his eyes and told him that if he could not hold on any more, that it was ok and I did not want him to suffer any more. He looked up at me and took one last breath…. and then his eyes glassed over. I immediately administered CPR and quickly realized that he did not need oxygen, his organs had failed him. Dylan was more than just a dog, he was my 12 year old son. I miss him dearly. Life is just not the same.
I lost my maltese gizzy march of this year after a long battle of kidney disease and sards. Last march of 07 gizzy started getting sick after eating the menu foods recalled food. I took him the same day i heard about the recall and they did tests that showed his kidneys were fine at that time. As the months went on Gizzy was acting strange, loss of appetite, and by October he was blind. In between this now that I know what I know there were alot more symptoms but they were suddle. Soon as the blindness kicked in his kidneys were going bad fast. Long story short he was diagnosed with SARDS in November and by March 7th of this year I had to put him down. His health was really bad. I donated his tissue to Dr Grozdanic at Iowa State University. Although SARDS is a auto immune disease I still feel like the recalled dog food set this off. Its just a gut feeling. I would love to know when menu foods will take action on this. I had sent them the original bill when I took giz for the first tests. I received a letter back with a form I filled out. Never heard another word about it. I looked on their site and it says they are not allowed to speak with anyone. I will never be able to prove that this is what killed my dog but I sure would take bets. Maybe this didnt cause his SARDS but kidney failure ya I think so.
Lisa, a class action nationwide lawsuit is in the process. There has been a settlement in this case and it is set for a release for the public on MAy 30th of this year. Get with a law firm that is representing people in this case, so your name is documented in some law firm’s office. After the settlement goes public, there will be a claim form issued to all that are participating in the class action case. You will definately get the monies spent on a vet and you will receive a standardized settlement( that means that all claiments will receive the same amount of money for their loss) Email me at : email@example.com if you have any other questions