The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday in favor of Champion Petfoods in a case alleging that the defendant’s dog food’s packaging was deceptive. The plaintiff appealed the exclusion of their damages experts and the subsequent dismissal of their case. The Seventh Circuit sided with the dog food manufacturer and the district court, agreeing with their holding that the plaintiff “failed to produce sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could determine that any of the representations (on the packaging) were false or misleading.”
The original complaint disputed Champion’s claims on its packaging; namely, that the food was “biologically appropriate” and made of “fresh, regional ingredients.” The plaintiff, Scott Weaver, specifically alleged that the dog food may have contained Bisphenol A (BPA) and pentobarbital. The Seventh Circuit opinion corroborated the presence of these ingredients, explaining that levels of BPA found in certain brands of Champion food were normal and “would not cause an adverse effect in a dog” and that pentobarbital came from beef tallow in the manufacturing process. The opinion said that the presence of BPA was customary, but the presence of pentobarbital, used to euthanize animals, was not, and most of the food containing it was retrieved by the company.
The court explained that Weaver’s claims as to the presence of BPA failed because Weaver only provided his testimony to show that a reasonable customer would expect no BPA in a product marked “biologically appropriate.” His claims as to pentobarbital failed because, according to the court, he stopped purchasing the dog food in 2017, before the tainted beef tallow was supplied to Champion. Similarly, the court rejected Weaver’s claims on appeal that “fresh and regional” claims on the packaging would lead a reasonable consumer to believe that the food used solely fresh and regional ingredients. Weaver’s fraud and negligence claims met a similar fate.
The court did not address Weaver’s appeal of the exclusion of his damages experts, as “summary judgment is the proverbial ‘put up or shut up’ moment in a lawsuit, and Weaver has failed to offer sufficient evidence to support his claims.”