Class Action Goes “To The Dogs” When Plaintiff Fails to Sufficiently Allege Damages from “Made in the USA” Claim
By Reena R. Bajowala
A federal court in Chicago recently dismissed a lawsuit brought by Dale Sabo, an Illinois resident seeking to represent a multi-state class of consumers who bought defendant Wellpet LLC’s pet food products. Sabo alleged that the products were falsely labeled “Made in the USA,” but instead contain vitamins and minerals sourced from outside the United States in violation of Illinois, California, New York and six other state consumer fraud statutes. Sabo alleged that he places a premium on American-made products and is willing to pay more for them. In addition, he claims that a majority of Americans feel the same way, particularly given recent reports of recalls linked to foreign-sourced ingredients.
To prevail on a consumer fraud claim, though, a plaintiff must plead actual damages, i.e., actual pecuniary loss. The court found that plaintiff failed to do so. While Sabo alleged that he “paid more for the products than they were actually worth,” the court held that he failed to provide the factual foundation “to moor his subjective estimation of the products’ worth.” Neither did he allege that products that lacked domestic-source designations were less expensive. As a result, “while he alleges that he (and other consumers) are willing to pay a premium for goods made in the United States, he stops short of alleging that he in fact paid more for defendant’s . . . American-made” products. Because the damages allegation was too speculative, the Court dismissed the lawsuit.
Sabo v. Wellpet, LLC, 2017 WL 1427057, ___ F. Supp. 3d ___ (N.D. Ill. Apr. 4, 2017).