Federal judge approves Blue Buffalo’s $32 million settlement of false advertising class actions

By Jessica Karmasek | May 20, 2016

ST. LOUIS (Legal Newsline) - A Missouri federal judge has approved a leading natural pet food company’s settlement with thousands of its customers over allegations that the company deceived them about the ingredients in its products.

A fairness hearing was held Thursday before Chief Judge Rodney W. Sippel of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The $32 million settlement, reached in December by Connecticut-based Blue Buffalo and customers who purchased products between May 7, 2008 and Dec. 18, 2015, will provide customers who filed a claim but couldn’t provide a receipt up to $100.

For customers who filed a claim and have receipts, they will receive up to $2,000, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. A written order with the details had not yet been filed with the court.

According to the newspaper, more than 100,000 consumers filed claims before the April 14 deadline.

A total of 13 class actions were brought against Blue Buffalo over its alleged false advertising.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuits claim, among other things, that certain Blue Buffalo products were not consistent with its “True Blue Promise.” The label indicates the products contains no chicken byproduct, along with no corn, wheat, soy or artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

The pet food company, which continues to deny any wrongdoing, argues it was defrauded by a supplier that provided its chicken byproduct.

The class actions, brought on behalf of consumers who argue they paid a premium for the pet food products, were consolidated by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in 2014 in the Eastern District of Missouri.

Blue Buffalo agreed to the settlement to eliminate the “uncertainties, burden and expense of further litigation.”

Under the terms of the deal, the company will pay $32 million into a settlement fund. Any attorneys’ fees awarded by the court and all costs of notice and claims administration will be paid from the fund.

According to the Post-Dispatch, attorneys’ fees and expenses will make up 25 percent of the settlement, or $8 million.

“More than a year ago, we informed our Pet Parents about the misconduct of a former ingredient supplier and a broker. While we will continue to pursue our claims against them, we decided that it is in the best interest of our Pet Parents and our company to resolve the class actions now,” Bill Bishop, chairman and founder of Blue Buffalo, said in December.

“All of us at Blue Buffalo continue to work tirelessly to make pet food with the finest natural ingredients for our furry family members.”

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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