Feed companies call for claims to be dismissed in US fish feed lawsuit

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages/ Epitavi
©GettyImages/ Epitavi
Both Purina Animal Nutrition LLC and Texas Farm Products Company (TFPC) requested that some components of the lawsuit brought against them by Veath Fish Farm LLC be rejected in summary judgement in August.

Veath Fish Farm owners brought a lawsuit​ in the US District Court for the Southern District of Illinois against both companies in March, 2017. At the time, the Illinois-based aquaculture producer alleged that use of Purina feeds, manufactured by TFPC, caused the mass death of many of its fish. Several elements of the lawsuit survived an initial call for dismissal​ in October, 2017.

In its lawsuit, Veath Fish Farm’s attorneys claimed that sale of the fish feed was a matter of “consumer fraud, breach of express and implied warranties and negligence,”​ according to court documents. The fish feed products sold were marketed for largemouth bass producers and were reportedly safe for largemouth bass.

However, the feeds were found to be “dangerous” ​when used with the fish and led to large-scale fish death, the lawyers claimed.

The producer alleges that it had not had problems with the AquaMax feeds until the feed started being manufactured for Purina by TFPC, according to court documents. At that time, allegedly, the feeds were reformulated or altered from their previous composition and users were not warned of the change.

“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,”​ the fish farm alleged in its complaint.

Lawyers with TFPC said they could not comment on the case as it is still pending and in litigation. Purina and Veath did not comment by press time.  

Requests to exit the lawsuit

Purina Animal Nutrition LLC requested a partial summary judgement dismissing most of the fish producer’s claims, according to court documents. It did not ask for claims regarding breach of express warranties to be dismissed.

The Minnesota-based animal feed company said the claims from the fish producer fail for multiple reasons such as they are restatements of other claims and do not provide adequate basis for a new claim, because of disclaimers in the contract or because they are barred by law. “Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages fails as a matter of law because there is no evidence of any willful or wanton disregard of Plaintiff’s rights by Purina,”​ the company added.

“Purina did not even manufacture the fish feed at issue in this case. The feed was manufactured by TFPC,” ​the company said in court documents. “There is also no evidence showing that Purina was aware that there was anything wrong with the feed manufactured by TFPC.”

Similarly, TFPC requested a summary judgement from the court and asked for all of Veath’s claims made against it to be dismissed because there were no “triable issues”​ that could be presented to a jury, it said according to court documents.

The summary judgement was requested on the basis that the aquaculture producer has not made “any statement, act or practice made or employed by TFPC relating to AquaMax Products, let alone that TFPC made any false statements or employed any deceptive practice or act relating to the AquaMax products,”​ it said.

Veath also has failed to exclude “secondary causes”​ as the source of the issue with the fish, TFPC claimed in the court documents.

“There are no triable issues of fact that would be submissible to a jury, and therefore defendant Texas Farm Products Company is entitled to judgement as a matter of law on all counts of plaintiff’s first amended complaint,”​ the company said in court documents.

In addition to making its own request for summary judgement and for the claims to be dismissed, TFPC also adopted Purina’s request for a partial summary, according to court documents.

As a co-manufacturer for Purina, TFPC said it echoed the arguments the company made related to the alleged violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act, breach of implied warranty of merchantability and negligence, according to court documents.

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