Tenth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Champion Petfoods Ad Case

On Tuesday, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the case of Renfro, et al v. Champion Petfoods USA, Inc. affirming the district court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ complaint. 

According to the opinion, the plaintiffs are a group of pet owners who brought a class action lawsuit against Champion Petfoods alleging representations on the packaging of Champion’s Acana and Orijen brands of dog food were false and misleading. 

The opinion purports that Champion is a pet food producer located in Kentucky where it manufactures pet food that is distributed throughout the United States. Further, it states that Champion’s Acana and Orijen brands are marketed as “Biologically Appropriate” dog food that contain the “richness, freshness, and variety” of meats that dogs “evolved to eat.” Additionally, the Orijen packaging also advertises that it is “Trusted Everywhere” and contained “Fresh Regional Ingredients” “Grown Close to Home” that were “ethically raised by people we know and trust.” 

In response to the marketing claims on the Acana and Orijen packaging, the plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging several claims based on the marketing including (1) violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, (2) breach of express warranty, (3) breach of implied warranty, (4) fraudulent misrepresentation, (5) fraudulent concealment, (6) unjust enrichment and (7) negligence.   

The District Court of Colorado subsequently dismissed the case stating the plaintiffs failed to allege any materially false or misleading representations, and their claims were either puffery or overly subjective and thus not materially misleading. Following the District Court’s dismissal, the plaintiffs appealed the case to the Tenth Circuit. 

In the Tenth Circuit opinion, the court stated that it agreed with the District Court that the plaintiffs’ claims fail to allege materially false or misleading statements on Champion’s packaging because the phrases fail to deceive or mislead reasonable consumers on any material fact. 

Specifically, the court stated that Champion’s claims that its products are “Trusted Everywhere,” “Grown Close to Home” and contained “Fresh Regional Ingredients” that were “ethically raised by people we know and trust” are non-actionable puffery, and no reasonable consumer would have concluded these “vague generalities” were anything other than boilerplate statements of opinion. Further, the court stated the plaintiffs failed to plead actionable claims against Champion’s assertion that its products are “Biologically Appropriate” and contain the “richness, freshness, and variety” of meats dogs were “evolved to eat.”

The Tenth Circuit’s Chief Judge Tymkovich and Judges Homes and McHugh ultimately affirmed the District Court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint. The plaintiffs were represented by Cuneo Gilbert & Laduca, Turke & Strauss, Lite Depalma Greenberg & Rivas, Gustafson Gluek, Lockridge Grindal Nauen and Wexler Boley & Elgersma. Champion was represented by Greenberg Traurig