Law Firm Says Menu Foods Gag Order Is Voluntary

According to a letter obtained by Itchmo, a law firm handling the Menu Foods class action lawsuit indicates that Menu Foods voluntarily agreed to stop communicating with affected pet owners — a point Menu Foods’ website posting left out.

The letter, written by Chicago law firm Blim & Edelson, says the following:

Based on what we were being told, we came to the conclusion that Menu Foods was not acting in good faith to compensate the people it damaged. Rather, it appears that the company was engaging in a cynical strategy, designed to settle some the strongest claims cheaply and induce pet owners to give up information it might be able to use to defend against others.

Along with a group of other plaintiffs’ attorneys, we were able to negotiate a strong consent decree with Menu Foods, which the court subsequently entered.

We are, however, extremely disappointed that Menu Foods has already broken the spirit – if not the letter – of yesterday’s consent decree. First, it has made statements suggesting that a federal court has ordered it to stop communicating with the public. That is a half-truth at best. The consent decree was entered into voluntarily by Menu Foods, and only after significant evidence of improper conduct had been provided to the court. Menu could have declined to enter into the decree and forced a decision by the court. It did not do so.

Second, and more significantly, within hours after indicating that it would sign the consent decree, Menu Foods posted a statement on its website that we believe is entirely inconsisten with its obligations under the decree. We will be asking the company to remove that statement and are prepared to take further action if it refuses to do so.

The contents of this letter have been independently verified.

We also welcome a response from Menu Foods’ legal counsel.

Full letter after the jump.

Non-Privileged Communication

May 25, 2007
Re: Contaminated Pet Food Litigation
Dear Clients and Friends:

As many of you know, we achieved a significant legal victory in the contaminated pet food
litigation yesterday. Because there are some confusing statements circulating, my firm along
with Kamber & Associates, LLC wanted to take this opportunity to explain exactly what
happened.

First, let me explain the events leading up yesterday’s victory. Several weeks ago, Menu
Foods adopted a clear litigation strategy: first, it began asking all of the courts where cases
against it had been filed to “stay” the legal proceedings and, second, it started a campaign to
collect information from plaintiffs and potential plaintiffs to aid it in its defense. This second
prong of its strategy consisted of systematically contacting people who claimed to have been
injured by its tainted pet food, telling these people that the company was considering settling
“valid” claims, and requesting detailed information about the pet owners’ individual
circumstances.

Menu Foods, however, failed to explain its criteria for evaluating the validity of such claims.
Moreover, the company declined to say what any such “settlements” would consist of,
including whether indisputable monetary losses would be covered in their entirety or in any
particular proportion. Worse still, according to reports we received from some of our clients,
Menu Foods was calling some people many times – even after learning that these people
were represented by counsel – to the point that they were feeling harassed or bullied.
Based on what we were being told, we came to the conclusion that Menu Foods was not
acting in good faith to compensate the people it damaged. Rather, it appears that the
company was engaging in a cynical strategy, designed to settle some the strongest claims
cheaply and induce pet owners to give up information it might be able to use to defend
against others.

A number of firms brought a motion in federal court in New Jersey seeking to stop Menu
Food’s improper strategies. Because of our clients’ commendable diligence and
attentiveness, we were able to submit papers to the court underscoring the company’s highly
inappropriate actions. The court’s reaction was swift and decisive – it rebuked Menu Foods
for violating the bounds of proper conduct and suggested that further inquiry into the
impropriety of its action might be called for.

Along with a group of other plaintiffs’ attorneys, we were able to negotiate a strong consent
decree with Menu Foods, which the court subsequently entered.

That consent decree does the following:
(1) It prohibits Menu Foods from communicating with all putative class members
about matters relating to the litigation;
(2) It restricts the company’s use of the improperly obtained information; and
(3) It requires Menu Foods specifically to seek court approval before
communicating with potential plaintiffs about this case.

We are, however, extremely disappointed that Menu Foods has already broken the spirit – if
not the letter – of yesterday’s consent decree. First, it has made statements suggesting that a
federal court has ordered it to stop communicating with the public. That is a half-truth at
best. The consent decree was entered into voluntarily by Menu Foods, and only after
significant evidence of improper conduct had been provided to the court. Menu could have
declined to enter into the decree and forced a decision by the court. It did not do so.
Second, and more significantly, within hours after indicating that it would sign the consent
decree, Menu Foods posted a statement on its website that we believe is entirely inconsistent
with its obligations under the decree. We will be asking the company to remove that
statement and are prepared to take further action if it refuses to do so.

I want to end this letter by thanking a number of people. First, our clients were truly
extraordinary. They have been incredibly vigilant in watching Menu’s actions and their
responsiveness to our requests for information was nothing short of outstanding. We would
not have achieved these results if not for them. Second, I wish to acknowledge the other
attorneys who contributed to this result. Mark Tambyln’s group had the initiative to start
these injunctive proceedings in New Jersey. Bill Audet supplied some great material to the
court. Mike Ferrera and Scott Kamber persuasively argued our case to the court. And Scott
Kamber and Ken Wexler did a great job of negotiating the consent decree and holding Menu
Foods’ feet to the fire.

We understand that other companies might be adopting similar litigation strategies, and we
are interested to hear from people who feel that they have been misled, bullied, or in anyway
harassed by other such companies.
Again, congratulations to everyone for this great victory.

Best regards,
Jay Edelson & John Blim

28 Responses to “Law Firm Says Menu Foods Gag Order Is Voluntary”

  1. Itchmo » Blog Archive » Menu Foods Gag Order Prevents Claims says:

    […] UPDATE: Law firm explains why Menu Foods can’t talk to you.  […]

  2. Itchmo » Blog Archive » Recall Update: Friday says:

    […] Menu Foods says court order is preventing customer claims. A law firm says gag order is voluntary. […]

  3. Ann H says:

    *cross posting from the “Menu Foods Gag…*

    If I remember correctly there are different types of class action lawsuits. I don’t know the impact, but the MDL on May 31 will give us a clue about what direction this will be taking.

    By definition, I don’t think this is literally a “gag order”. It seems to me to be more of a halt to settlement discussions/redefine settlement aspects until the legal issues are reviewed and as a means to protect consumers until that time.

    These documents, Docket #10-1 & Docket #20, should give everybody a bit more insight into why Menu Foods had to revisit the settlement/claims information they had previously posted on their website.

    Workman et al v Menu Foods et al
    http://news.justia.com/cases/menu-foods/345169/

    Docket #10-1 Probably will help give some insight too (1 is the Memorandum of Law to support the motion)

    Docket #20
    http://news.justia.com/cases/m.....9/20/0.pdf

    So basically what Itchmo just posted is supported by the above caption docket to see what was going on. I don’t know if it’s the same case as that attorney..but the gist of them are pretty much the same.

  4. Cynthia says:

    I really would like to see this company go out of business.

    I wish everyone would stop buying pet food that’s manufactured at Menu Foods. Then tell the pet food company why your not buying their product. Maybe then they will consider dropping Menu Foods.

  5. Kim says:

    I just KNEW they were lying.

  6. straybaby says:

    wow. have they no shame?

  7. Ann H says:

    IMO - Summary of what happened:

    Strategy 1 = make consumers think you are helping them.
    Strategy 2 = make the lawsuit filed by other pet owers the enemy that keeps them from settling with you.

    Truth= allegedly **using** the pet owners

    Per Workman v Menu - Docket #20 page 1:

    “During argument, Defendants’ counsel was unable to confirm that this information will in no way be used for litigation purposes (including the May 31, 2007 MDL hearing), and instead assured the Court only that it is informtion they would likely have to produce in the regular course of discovery. This assurance, however, only illustrates the problem. Defendants can benefit from the information they received as a result of the improper communication to putative class members immediately, while Plantiffs cannot. At a minimum, Plaintiffs should be made aware of exactly what information Defendants have actually received in response to the original Claim Form.”

  8. Carol says:

    I HAVE BEEN HAD!!! I EVEN GOT A CALL FROM CRAWFORD & CO THIS WEEK VERIFYING THEY HAD COMBINED MY INFO I SENT TO CANAFA IN APRIL AS WELL AS THE UPDATED CLAIM FROM FROM 5/18. I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT JUST GETTING MY VET BILLS PAID AS THEY PUBLICALLY SAID….BUT NOW I’M NOT SO SURE—-I HAD A FEELING AS THEIR CLAIM FORM DID MENTION SOMETHING ABOUT THE CURRENT LAWSUITS AND HOW THAT MIGHT AFFECT THEIR RESPONSES—I HAVE ALREADY EMAILED NBC THIS AM WHEN I THOUGHT THE JUDGE DID THIS GAG ORDER BUT NOW I’M GOING TO SEND ANOTHER—THEY JUST WANTED MY 2 CATS INFO I GUESS.

  9. Jay says:

    Wysong is made at the Menu plant as we know from the defense by Wysong on its website of Menu’s business practices — you do remember that the blame was primarily the pet owners as they were making a big deal over nothing!

    Don’t buy foods made by Menu including Priority from Safeway as well as Wysong above, now and forever.

  10. mittens says:

    lying sacks of melameal….

  11. Sandi K says:

    Mittens, lol!! Thanks I needed that.

  12. Carol says:

    I need to correct my post above—I have been “made a fool of-”–I had said from day one that MenuFoods would stand by their word from March 18th and later on their website—no one around me thought I was doing the right thing—I was SURE this company would do the right thing, but the rose-colored glasses are off and I’ve sent a detailed e-mail to “someone who can help” thanks to Itchmo!!!

  13. Buster says:

    Lying again! Oh, what a surprise. I hope no one actually thought that Menace Foods suddenly had a halo over their head.

  14. mittens says:

    if menu foods inc actually ‘ went by their word’ and paid people they’d be admitting guilt- and it would be used rightly by the plaintiffs in all these law suits.they’d almost lose automatically if they did the right thing and coughed up without a judgement by any court.

    this is what’s going on only they don’t have the balls god gave a chipmunk to admit it.

    and thus the wonders of the legal system bring justice to no one and protects sorry sacks like menu foods who have their slick ass expensive lawyer bottem feeders to hose them clean.

    what is it they say?-” see, first we get the lawyers….” yeah then next the pet food companies. that inner ring of hell sure is gonna be packed to the gills.

  15. YaYa says:

    I’ll repost what I said in the other “Gag” thread.

    Thank You Ann H. and Itchmo.

    “gag order” Ha! I thought so!

    Will they EVER get it that, it would Behoove them to just be Straight for once?

    Nah. Don’t think So.

    {they} Can’t even P-R-I-N-T the Truth!

    Whadaya think we are here, a bunch of chumps?!

    You Wish!

    Let me add, You Vile, Contemptible pieces of dried contaminated Wheat Gluten!

  16. YaYa says:

    I hope we have Disc and Disc Loaded with the putrid Garbaged they’ve spewn for MONTHS now!
    {oh yeah, only the stuff that came AFTER they Sold the Stock THEN called the Recall!}

    All you Other pet food companies out there, Read, Learn, Listen. Don’t Play Games in this thing. We keep asking and keep telling and we keep begging YOU to Remove your Foods!

    You just don’t Care.

    Just Do it. Settle this Proper and Fairly.

    Start FRESH.

    Thank Menu Foods for setting the bar as to How it goes Now.

    And if Menu goes Out of Business {as it should} and tries it under Another NAME—We’ll KNOW.

    People, When and If you Call a Company that you’ve had Problems with {their foods}, I Hope you WRITE DOWN WHAT THEY SAY!
    {and those Nasty, condesending attitudes on the phone towards you}

    Of course, these are only my opinions and thoughts- can ya Feel the ^Heat^?!

  17. ANDYcat says:

    As a Canadian, I am ashamed that this despicable operation is allowed to operate within our borders.

    For now, however, let them go on…they can’t pay up if they are bankrupt. Once the class actions are settled, look for the biggest boycott this country has ever seen.

    Oh, and if you have stock there (apparently it’s a good time to buy), you sure as hell better keep an eye on those court actions…there will come a time when you’ll need to SELL. (Their CFO knows ALL about that.)

  18. Pit Bull Lover says:

    Mittens: “this is what’s going on only (Menu doesn’t) have the balls god gave a chipmunk to admit it”

    The left one’s called “Ethics” and the right one’s named “Conscience.”

  19. Kathy says:

    Why am I not surprised????

    It is only about the money, EVERYTHING is only about the money! Those lying sacks of maseta, I’m sure the truth is always going to be just the opposite of anything they say. Remember their dirty nasty plant??? Remember the huge mansion, (big enough for several families of most of us to live in), remember that jerk’s attitude? I don’t even have enough respect for that scum to remember his name!!!!

    And where is our government, of the people, by the people, and for the people???? Well, China bought them a while back so W could fight his private war. We have BIG mess going on here!!!!!

  20. Phoebe says:

    This isn’t much of a surprise. When Menu posted this ‘news’ about a court order, they told Canadians that, while the order wasn’t valid in Canada, they wouldn’t be responding to them, either, until their “internal review” was completed. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a “review” from Menu that isn’t put together by their PR and legal departments. This was an announcement that Menu runs the show, not American or Canadian pet owners. Today’s follow-up just confirms their heavy-handed attitude.

    This is exactly the reason why I will not buy a pet food that has any part of its product line manufactured by Menu, Diamond, or American Nutrition. If they won’t stop using those manufacturers, I don’t want anything to do with ANY product they sell. Those manufacturers are deceitful at best and any company doing business with them has no place in my home. Period. It’s far more than guilt by association, it goes to the heart of business ethics and consumer trust. Menu, Diamond, and American Nutrition have no concept of either and I will not buy from them or any company who deals with them.

  21. Iams should change their name to LIE-MS says:

    http://getactive.peta.org/campaign/menu_foods

    Urgent Action Needed to Demand Justice for Dead and Dying Dogs and Cats

    When word came to Menu Foods (reportedly as early as February 20) that some of its dog and cat food might be the cause of severe illness in its customers’ companion animals, the company quietly conducted lethal toxicity tests to confirm the contamination. Menu Foods forced dogs and cats to ingest toxic and lethal food in its laboratories before announcing a massive recall of 60 million cans and pouches of companion animal food from stores nationwide almost a full month after the initial illnesses were reported. During this critical month, hundreds, if not thousands, of people’s animal companions may have been at risk of being sickened and may even have died.

    *video menu foods inside the lab*

    Veterinarians around the country are reporting that their offices are filled with cases of dogs and cats experiencing renal failure because of contaminated food. They want answers, which Menu Foods, and the companies that contract with it, must provide.

    PETA is calling on law enforcement agencies to investigate whether cruelty-to-animals charges should be filed against Menu Foods in the U.S. and Canada, for alleged failure to warn consumers about the tainted food as soon as the company had the information and for apparently feeding the tainted food to cats and dogs in order to test it, when the contaminant could have been identified through chemical analyses of the food and necropsies and tissue analysis of the animal victims. Also, there are non-animal test methods that could be employed, such as the functional gastrointestinal dog model (FIDO) or TIM-1 and TIM-2 (small and large gastrointestinal models).

    No one knows just how many animals are sick and dying, but this tragedy is proof that laboratory tests on animals have not made products safer—yet animals are still dying in laboratories for pet-food profits.

    Menu Foods needs to hear from you. Please write to the company today to demand answers and an end to all laboratory tests on animals in favor of humane feeding tests conducted in homes and in veterinary offices using animals volunteered by their guardians, and urge your friends and family to do the same.

    http://getactive.peta.org/campaign/menu_foods

  22. Kiki says:

    Menu Foods was ORDERED by the court to quit HARASSING pet owners. The story can be seen here. MF is out of control AND is a big liar, as it is clear that they did not and have not ever done anything voluntarily - EVER.

    LOSERS!!!!

    BOYCOTT FOREVER!!!!! WOOHOO….

    http://tinyurl.com/33pd8e

  23. Ann H says:

    Kiki, I couldn’t get your link to work..

    “[Judge] Hillman was unyielding.
    “It seems to me that Menu Food is out to do whatever Menu Foods wants to do in a way that could adversely impact the rights of (possible members of the class action suit,” he said.”

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/n.....ment_N.htm

    800 Cases!?

    “At the end of May a federal multi-district litigation panel will meet in Las Vegas to determine which court the more than 800 cases against Menu will be heard in. The panel is expected to announce a decision by mid summer.”

  24. Kiki says:

    HEY ANN, I TRIED MY LINK AND YOUR LINK - THEY BOTH WORK ON MY END. HOPEFULLY, ONE OR THE OTHER WILL WORK FOR EVERYONE ELSE!!!

    ( NOT SCREAMING HERE, JUST CAPPED IT AND TOO LAZY TO RETYPE IT!!:) )

  25. 3FURS says:

    If Vets truly care about animals, and are only looking to make a fast buck, they will work with pet owners, and provide them with home prepared food plans. Then and only then will our animals cease being poisoned. Home cooking is not rocket science !! Then the few people who, out of necessity , have to buy pet food will go to reputable makers. The mass market sleeveens will be out of a job. But now we have to fight to have our human food made safe again. At least it’s less toxic than what our pets get. Governments have to protect the people, that’s what they are there for. Protect us from the enemy within our own boarders.

  26. High Note says:

    The consumers sue the pet manufacturer and in turn the manufacturer sue’s places like Chemo Nutra and then they sue the Chinese manufacturer of tainted materials and who will get shoveled around and never get paid? Of course the consumer! This will drag on in courts forever.
    All these pet manufacturers are to blame to some extent by their actions after this all happened and Also the suppliers for rice protein and wheat gluten in the U.S.
    But the real people to blame are the Chnese manufacturers of the nutrients!
    Chemo Nutra said they ordered human grade protein and it was marked this way on the bags. So are they at fault? The pet food manufacturers ordered their supplies from an American company thinking it was a good product. Are they at fault?
    There is only one manufacturer of wheat gluten in the U.S. today! Because of the China manufacturers prices being so slow, they have put several manufacturers of nutrients ot of business in the U.S.
    They made their self the cheapest and almost only supplier of vitamins and preservatives so many manufacturers had to buy from them. No one knew that they would put melamine and Cyanuric Acid in any products. They never tested for such things because it was not to be put in the food. So who is at fault? What will the courts think about it?
    I personally feel that our pet food manufacturers are at fault in many ways but not because of the melamine and cyanuric acid. I think they are at fault because they have been using ingredients in our pet foods that can cause our pets harm for a long time and they knew it. Cancered cows, dogs and cats that have been ill, etc. should not have been put in our pets food supply. All of our pets deserve better quality food then that!
    Then of course the pet food manufacturers attitudes and the way they did not speak up right way for the well fare of our pets was terribly wrong. Allowing our pets to get sick and even sicker each day without finding out for sure that their pet food could be contaminated is terribly wrong! They all had this responsibility !
    I do hope the courts hold them responsible for this!
    Without our pets they would be out of business. I would have thought they would have realized this in the first place instead of defending their products and then finding out their products were tainted all along! Yes they are responsible for the quality of the products they sell!
    This has made me feel like I do not want to get another pet. I am too afraid to feed them anything any more! I cannot even feed them the food we eat because it could have enough melamine in it too to harm them The FDA has not told us any thing about whether it could harm our pets! Just said very little risk to us! Since when did the American people want to eat something even with a little risk? I don’t and I do not want to feed it to my pet! My dog has cancer now, and I am not sure about my Cat any more. She is acting strange about her food.
    The strange thing is that my dog would eat the chicken and rice, etc. I made him one day and the next he would smell it and not touch it! My cat is acting the same way. Maybe these animals know what is tainted and what is not! Sure makes me wonder!
    WEll now that we have those chickens in our food supply then I am only buying organic chicken from a supplier that does not use any chemicals and everyone else should do the same! Let the chickens set in the stores till their due date is gone. Or better yet sell them to China! I bet Tyson is one of the ones that had tainted chickens because I read an article that they did not want to buy from China any more!
    I have noticed for sometime that each time I bought their chicken that it seemed tougher then usual and had a gristle going through it that I had never seen before and the taste was different too! I started buying an organic brand a while back because of this. I also noticed that they were not cleaning them as well either. When I started buying the organic it was a surprise, When you open up a package of the Tyson chicken it had an odor about it but this organic had such a fresh smell to it. I should have realized a while back that something was very different. Maybe feeding the chickens cow blood makes them smell different!! I do not like that practice either. Since they give Cows horomes and then the chickens would get it too.
    What happened to just feeding an animal what it is suppose to eat! We are playing God to our animals and giving them things they should not consume and of course this will cause different problems with them.. Like mad cow and heaven knows what else in our furture. This all has to stop!! This recycling of scraps and giving it to animals that should not have it is terribly wrong and we all are going to suffer because of it!

  27. MarySmith says:

    Menu Foods: Tainted Pet Food Raises a Bigger Concern
    May 28, 2007. By Gordon Gibb
    http://www.lawyersandsettlemen.....foods.html

    This article gave a nice *overview* of recent events in May until this statement at the bottom of the page:

    “Menu Foods Legal Help

    “If your pet has suffered or died as a result of eating any of these pet foods, please contact a [Menu Foods Lawyer] who will review your case at no cost or obligation.”

    The “contact a [Menu Foods Lawyer]” is an active LINK!

  28. Elijah says:

    If Menu foods is contacting claimants who are represented by counsel, they are handling claims in bad faith and this could bring punitive damages, on top of any monetary awards.

    However, if Menu foods is contacting claimants who have not informed Menu of being represented by counsel, or their attorney has not contacted Menu, then Menu should receive a “release of all claims” in exchange for any payment made on the claim. This would indeed waive customers right to future claims, which is standard in most settlement agreements.

    Keep in mind that this is a property damage claim. Therefore plaintiffs are not entitled to emotional distress, missed time from work, etc. By law, this claim is the same as having a windstorm rip the roof of your house. You may have it replaced or have it paid at actual cash value, depending upon your home policy.

    I find it interesting that Menu lists the different “Class Action Attorney’s” on their website! Menu would rather you obtain a lawyer because the payout will be much less. And ofcourse, the lawyers will get all the money and the plaintiff’s will most likely not see a penney. Remeber the class action asbestos lawsuit years ago? Enough said….

    Bottom line, if you can settle a claim with Menu directly, you will fare much better than participating in class action suit.


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