The Illinois-based fish farm filed the suit in the US District Court for the Southern District of Illinois last week.
The farm has alleged that fish feed products manufactured for Purina Animal Nutrition LLC by Texas Farm Products Company (TFPC) were marketed as safe for use with largemouth bass but, instead, led to large-scale fish death.
The case is in the initial stages said attorney William Niehoff, one of the lawyers representing Veath Fish Farm. The farm is prepared to go through the entire litigation process.
“It’s a family business that has been run for a long time,” he told FeedNavigator. “It’s proved devastating for them.”
Purina said that the company does not comment on the details of pending litigation, but that the company disputes the accusations and intends to fight them.
Veath started using Purina brand fish feed for its largemouth bass in 2008, the farm said in its legal filing. In June of 2015, it said it had about 360,000 fish of various ages in production.
Before June 2015, it appears that AquaMax 500 and AquaMax 600, the varieties of fish feed used, were manufactured for Purina at one or more companies that did not include TFPC, the farm said in court documents. Around June 2015, those feeds started being generated by TFPC and no notice of the change in production facility was given, according to the farm.
“Veath Fish Farm never had any significant problems with the AquaMax 500 and AquaMax 600 fish food prior to the time that the products began to be manufactured for Purina by TFPC,” according to the complaint.
By April 2016 the farm had experienced “loss of its fish population from disease and death,” according to the complaint.
“There has been investigation into what the source of the fish deaths were,” said Niehoff. “We wanted to be careful and certain that we knew the source and cause of the injury.”
It is not unusual to run an investigation before a lawsuit is filed to determine the specifics involved, he said. “You often don’t know why something happened,” he added.
“You have to step back and look at a number of things and that would be true of any lawsuit,” he said. “You really have to look at everything when you consider filing suit for a trial.”
Veath Fish Farm is suing both Purina and TFPC. The farm alleges that when the two aquafeeds started being manufactured by TFPC the formula was altered in a way that made it unhealthy for largemouth bass.
“Upon information and belief, the AquaMax 500 and AquaMax 600 fish food were reformulated, altered or changed from their prior composition sometime during the time they were manufactured by TFPC,” the fish farm said in its complaint. The change in the diet formulations was never announced, according to Veath.
“Purina and TFPC failed to warn consumers, including Veath Fish Farm, that the AquaMax 500 and AquaMax 600 fish food manufactured by TFPC had been reformulated, altered and/or changed from its prior composition, resulting in, among other things, higher digestible carbohydrate percentages than what largemouth bass can physically use which, in turn, causes liver damage in largemouth bass,” the farm claimed.
The farm continued to use the feed after the change in formulation and started to see damage to its fish population, according to the complaint. “As a direct and proximate result of feeding its largemouth bass the reformulated, altered or changed AquaMax 500 and AquaMax 600 fish food manufactured by TFPC, Veath Fish Farm began to experience decreased growth and significantly increased deaths of its largemouth bass population,” it added.
Veath alleged that the feeds were not safe for use with largemouth bass or nutritionally appropriate, and that Purina committed consumer fraud, was negligent, and breached express warranty, implied warranty of merchantability and implied warranty.
Similarly, Veath claimed that TFPC violated the consumer fraud act, a breach of implied warranty of merchantability, a breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose and negligence,
Actions from both companies resulted in damage to the fish population, expenses in trying to save the fish and loss of income for the farm, according to the complaint.
In the lawsuit, the farm is asking for damages, compensation, costs, attorney fees and any other relief the court decides is “just and proper.”