Every dog may have its day, but a multi-state class action suit against Wellpet LLC’s pet food products will not go forward after being dismissed in a Chicago federal court. In the suit, lead plaintiff Dale Sabo alleged that Wellpet made false and deceptive claims surrounding its “Made in the USA” labeling.
The claims were false, Sabo said, because the products contained vitamins and minerals sourced from outside the U.S., a fact that he alleged violated consumer fraud statutes in nine states. However, while District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo conceded that the plaintiff made persuasive arguments, she ultimately ruled in favor of Wellpet because the class could not prove any actual financial damages as a result of the labeling.
“Where the plaintiff’s claim loses traction…is on the issue of actual damages. To prevail on an ICFA claim, it is not enough to establish a violation of the statute; plaintiffs must also plead and prove actual damages, i.e., ‘actual pecuniary loss.’,” she said.
Couldn't prove damages
As part of his argument, Sabo claimed that the vitamin C present in Wellpet’s Wellness Large Breed Puppy and Adult Foods came in the form of ascorbic acid, which has not been produced in the U.S. since 2009. And, since these minerals tend to come in packs, he argued that it was likely that other vitamins were sourced from outside the U.S. as well.
Sabo further claimed that he puts a premium on American-made products, and that he and other Americans are generally willing to pay more for them. He alleged that he and other members of the class were misled by the products’ labeling and “paid more for them than they were worth in reliance on the false ‘Made in the USA’ label.”
However, in her decision Bucklo points out that there was no proof that the class members in fact paid more for the pet food. “Indeed, [the plaintiff] does not claim that [Wellpet] charged more for its pet food products because they were (supposedly) ‘Made in the USA,’ nor does he claim that comparable pet food products that lacked domestic-source designations were less expensive,” she said.
Bucklo went on to dismiss the suit, saying that the damages allegations were too speculative and that adequate arguments were not made for future damages.