Melamine-tainted Petfood Lawsuit Settlement Unfair  

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Tainted Pet Food Settlement Shortchanges Pet Owners

An unsettling end to a multi-million dollar, class-action lawsuit, says Kathy Forcier
By Ana Garcia
Dec. 29, 2011
A woman whose cat died because of eating tainted pet food wants to know why the lawyers got millions and pet owners did not.
In March 2007, reports surfaced that melamine-tainted pet food imported from China had sickened or killed as many as 50,000 dogs and cats. As many as 150 brands under the Menu Foods umbrella, including Iams and Purina, were recalled.
By the time Kathy Forcier of Hemet heard the news, it was too late for her cat. She had already fed Ashes "Special Kitty" cat food bought at Walmart.
"She was in complete renal failure," said a tearful Forcier. "I was using an eye dropper trying to get water down her."
But Ashes the cat was dying.
"It was horrible, painful death," Forcier said. "I am feeling very, very guilty."
Forcier is one of more than 24,000 people who were part of a class-action lawsuit against Menu Foods, which settled for $24 million.
Forcier recently received a check for $58.76, approximately half the cost of the vet bills.
"It was an absolute insult," said Frocier.
The attorneys received $7.4 million.
"Clearly the lawyers benefit," said legal analyst Robin Sax. "They get paid first."
Class-action lawsuits are filed on behalf of a group of consumers with the intent of changing a business practice. Although, there are many public aspects of the class-action lawsuit – solicitations, notices, court hearings and court records – there are a lot of parts of the settlement that are "not transparent," said Sax.
For example, the lead law firm for the class action, Wexler Wallace of Chicago, refused to provide a breakdown of the payouts or disclose how many checks were mailed to claimants in California.
"Every claimant has the right to expect privacy with respect to their individual claims and I am going to respect that," said attorney Kenneth Wexler, who handled the case.
"The range of recovery is not relevant," added Wexler.
Forcier disagrees. She wants to know who got what, and why.
"He didn't lose a pet," said Forcier. "He didn't lose a member of his family."
"That lack of transparency breeds a lack of trust," said Sax.
The bulk of the settlement checks were mailed this past summer. If there is any money left over, it will be donated to animal welfare groups.
Forcier planned to donate her $58 to the local shelter in her cat's name. She wishes it were more.

© 2012 NBCUniversal, Inc.

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Very sad story. I can't wait for the day where animals get the same love and respect as humans do. That will be a great day!

March 2, 2012 at 4:30 PM

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