A consolidation order in the Eastern District of New York filed on Thursday joined together 16 lawsuits alleging that baby food companies should have disclosed the purportedly harmful metals present in the food they produce. Plaintiffs accused the companies of false advertising among other allegations that they breached state and federal business laws.
These lawsuits, which followed a House of Representatives subcommittee report alleging that these substances are dangerous for children, have been contested by baby food companies which argue that the metals will slip into fruits and vegetables through the environment, and that they work hard to ensure the baby food is safe for children. The Food and Drug Administration also agreed with the companies saying that getting no heavy metals in the food is not reasonable, but said it would work with the companies to try to make the baby foods even more safe.
The court granted in part and denied in part the consolidation, ruling to consolidate the 16 lawsuits alleging claims against Hain purporting that it “engaged in deceptive business practices” by not disclosing the heavy metals. It denied a request to only consolidate the claims against Hain in one action, including other defendants. The court also determined that personal injury claims based on non-economic damages would not be considered in the consolidation.
The order consolidated 16 putative class action complaints based on similar issues against Hain and other baby food companies, although there are multiple other complaints against baby food companies not currently involved in the consolidation. Plaintiffs in Stewart et al. v. Hain Celestial Group, Inc., initially filed the motion for consolidation, according to the order. The Order said that Hain did not oppose the consolidation, although it did dispute the claims of liability and personal injury.
In addition to consolidating the 16 lawsuits, the court allowed Gerber Products Company to intervene, Gerber additionally asked the court to sever the claims against it and transfer them to the District of New Jersey. Two other baby food companies, Plum PBC and Nurture Inc., who are defendants in some of the lawsuits opposed the consolidation.
The court additionally ruled that other consumer protection actions initiated in or transferred to the district with Hain named as a defendant would be subject to the consolidation.