The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a series of warnings about dog treats imported from China. Complaints of illnesses began coming in to the FDA in November 2011. It has now received more than one thousand reports relating to imported “chicken jerky” products. The situation presents a clear issue of products liability, since one or more manufacturers are producing goods that are not fit for their intended purpose. It also raises a question of damages. The most direct victims are family pets, but the possible damages generally do not match the loss a dog owner would feel if a pet gets sick or dies due to a contaminated or defective product.
Chinese-made pet products were at the center of another crisis in 2007, when pet food manufacturers reportedly used wheat flour contaminated with melamine. Thousands of dogs became ill or died, tons of dog food were recalled, and several pet food executives in both the U.S. and China faced criminal charges. When reports of sick dogs started coming in November, the FDA began testing chicken jerky treats for melamine and other contaminants. It issued a “cautionary update” to consumers at the time, identifying the possible symptoms and noting that some reported illnesses might be unrelated to the chicken jerky. By February 2012, the FDA had received more than five hundred reports of sick dogs.
In April, when the total number of illnesses had exceeded six hundred, the FDA sent inspectors to China to visit the plants that produced chicken jerky products. The agency had already conducted extensive chemical and microbial tests but reportedly had not isolated a cause for the illnesses. Pressure continued to mount through the spring to find a solution.
Complaints from pet owners and veterinarians have reportedly led to three brands: Waggin’ Train, Canyon Creek Ranch, and Milo’s Kitchen. The first two brands, according to MSNBC, come from a company in Nanjing, China. Both companies maintain that their products are safe. Milo’s Kitchen has reportedly acknowledged settling a claim after a customer complained about a sick dog. The American-based companies are the most likely targets for litigation. Even though companies in China might be more directly liable, U.S. courts have little to no authority over them.
In a products liability case, manufacturers are sometimes held to a strict liability standard, meaning that a plaintiff only needs to prove the defect or dangerous condition in order to hold the manufacturer liable. Manufacturers of pet supplies, including food and treats, arguably have a duty to provide reasonably safe products. The difficult part of a claim for injuries to a family pet is in determining damages. Even though the loss of a beloved pet may seem to cause incalculable loss, the law still treats a pet as personal property. Damages are often based on the market or replacement value of the pet. Maryland specifically limits damages to the pet’s fair market value and reasonable veterinary costs, capped at $7,500. An attempt to allow noneconomic damages in Washington DC lawsuits was not successful, according to the Washington Lawyer.
The Washington, DC injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen help people injured due to faulty, defective, or dangerous products to recover their just compensation. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.
More Blog Posts:
FDA Wants to Investigate “Inhalable Caffeine” Further, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, March 30, 2012
Food and Drug Administration to Take Action on Food Safety in Restaurants and Stores, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 13, 2011
Children’s Jewelry Manufacturers Agree to Limit Cadmium Levels, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 7, 2011