Dog Owner Claiming Dog Food Misrepresentation Prevails On Motion to Dismiss

Jan. 19, 2022 – In a 12-page order, Chief District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller denied in part a motion filed by Defendants Ainsworth Pets Nutrition and J.M. Smucker to dismiss a class action claiming that Ainsworth’s Just 6 dog food contains corn, wheat, soy, or beef despite label representations claiming just six ingredients.

Plaintiff Kirchenberg alleged that she would not have spent money on defendants’  products but for defendants’ misrepresentations. The Court held that giving her pleadings, the plaintiff had the standing to bring claims for damages and injunctive relief. 

Next, the Court found that plaintiff plead sufficient facts to plausibly suggest consumers believed the product contained “no soy, corn, beef” or even traces of these ingredients. On this basis, the Court held that Kirchenberg has sufficiently pled her claims for violation of the California Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”) and the California False Advertising Law (“FAL”). 

The Court turned next to the plaintiff’s claim that the defendant violated California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) and found that she sufficiently plead a claim for three reasons.  First, a violation of the CLRA is also a violation of the UCL. Second, because the plaintiff had sufficiently alleged cognizable fraud claims, her UCL “unfair” claim survived the pending motion to dismiss, and third, her claim passed the “reasonable consumer test” because the plaintiff could prove that consumers would likely be deceived.

Finding that Plaintiff Kirchenberg has plausibly alleged the possibility that undisclosed ingredients are present in Just 6, the Court held that she properly plead her breach of an express warranty claim.

In sum, the Court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss with respect to four counts: CLRA, FAL, UCL, and breach of express warranty.

The case will now proceed to discovery.  The Initial Scheduling Conference is scheduled for March 23, 2022, in Redding, California.

The case is Kirchenberg v. Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, Inc. et al., No. 2020-cv-00690 (E.D. Cal.).