Almost 6,000 claims have been filed in the class action settlement arising out of last year’s massive pet-food recall. As you will recall, Menu Foods, other pet-food makers and retailers in May agreed to set up a $24 million cash fund to compensate pet owners whose cats and dogs became sick or died after eating food that had a contaminated ingredient from China. The filing period for claims began May 30th and will run until November 24th. The Food and Drug Administration never identified how many pets were affected, but it received more than 17,000 complaints.
Once a claim is filed, it will be reviewed by an independent claims administrator. Claimants may receive a 100% cash payment for all documented expenses deemed reasonable, including veterinary bills and burial costs. They may receive up to $900 for undocumented expenses. Under the terms of the settlement, most claims are likely to be paid next year. To be eligible, claimants must have bought or fed their pets one of the recalled pet foods. A federal judge in New Jersey gave the settlement preliminary approval in May. A hearing for final approval is scheduled for this month.
If the court approves the settlement as expected, it would resolve more than 100 lawsuits brought in the U.S. and a dozen in Canada. The $24 million is in addition to $8 million that pet-food makers have already paid to pet owners. The vast majority of the fund will go to pet owners whose pets were injured or died as a result of kidney failure, which was linked to the contaminant. The FDA determined that the pet-food ingredients, sold to pet-food makers as wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate, were adulterated in China with the industrial chemical melamine to make them appear richer in protein than they actually were. The recall was the largest ever for the pet-food industry. It began March 16, 2007, by Menu Foods, a large maker of wet pet food for many pet-food brands.
This recall grew to involve 12 pet-food makers and 180 brands of pet food and treats. Along with Menu, other defendants include Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Iams and retailers such as Wal-Mart. Menu Foods, which supplied most of the recalled foods, has pegged its recall costs at $55 million, some of which went to the settlement fund. If there is money remaining after claims have been processed, it will go to charities that promote the well-being of pets, according to the settlement terms. A website has been set up at www.petfoodsettlement.com. The claims administrator can be reached at 800-392-7785. Sherrie Savett, who is with the firm of Berger & Montague, located in Philadelphia, represented the plaintiffs and did a very good job.
Source: USA Today
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