Sanderson Farms Asks California Court to Dismiss False Advertising Allegations

On Friday, Sanderson Farms sought to dismiss allegations against it in the Northern District of California claiming that it misled consumers that the chicken it produces is natural, when it is given antibiotics. This filing addressed the plaintiffs’ first amended complaint, a previous motion from the defendants led to a stipulation under which the amended complaint was filed.

The plaintiffs, In Defense of Animals and Friends of the Earth claimed that although the farm’s products say the chicken is “100% Natural” that the chickens are given antibiotics which can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can spread to humans including the poultry workers. The plaintiffs further alleged that these antibiotic-resistant bacteria could lead to the deaths of some people who contract COVID-19, who ultimately die from secondary bacterial infections. 

In its motion to dismiss, Sanderson Farms claimed that the plaintiffs lack article II standing, contesting their claims that their advocacy interests were injured and that the defendant’s actions led the plaintiffs to divert resources. The defendant further claimed that it did not rely on the purportedly false advertisements, so the plaintiffs could not rely on false advertising claims. The motion further disputed the plaintiffs claims under California’s unfair competition law, saying that the antibiotic use follows laws and does not constitute unfair practices and that other state law claims are preempted by U.S. Department of Agriculture approved labeling laws.

Sanderson Farms asked the court to dismiss the amended complaint “in its entirety, whether for lack of standing or failure to plead viable California Claims.

A separate lawsuit filed by Friends of the Earth and additional plaintiffs was dismissed by the Ninth Circuit on March 31. The motion to dismiss claimed that the present lawsuit is a “copycat suit” based on the previous lawsuit, noting that it was filed shortly after the Northern District of California dismissed the lawsuit which would later be heard by the Ninth Circuit.

The motion to dismiss the first amended complaint is scheduled to be considered by the court on September 9. Sanderson Farms is represented by Kirkland & Ellis LLP and the plaintiffs are represented by The Law Office of Paige M. Tomaselli and Elsner Law & Policy LLC