UPDATE: Suit alleges StarKist under-filling tuna cans
Because of the current litigation, StarKist Co., owner of StarKist Samoa, offered no comments regarding a lawsuit filed in an Oakland, Calif. federal court, citing nine counts, including “negligent misrepresentation”, “unjust enrichment”, violating California consumer laws, and “fraud” with allegations that StarKist is under-filling its canned tuna products.
StarKist corporate spokesperson Mary Sestric told Samoa News over the weekend, “I cannot comment on active litigation” and did not answer if the canned tuna products cited in the lawsuit were produced at the StarKist Samoa plant.
The 12-page lawsuit, filed by Patrick Hendricks, was served on StarKist on Feb. 27 with a response due by Mar. 21. The US District Court has yet to rule on StarKist's request, made last week, for a 30-day extension to reply to the complaint.
Specifically, the canned tuna identified by Hendricks in the lawsuit and collectively identified as “StarKist Tuna”, are the 5-ounce cans of Chunk Light Tuna in Water; 5-ounce cans of Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water; 5-ounce cans of Solid White Albacore Tuna in Vegetable Oil; and 5-ounce cans of Chunk Light Tuna in Vegetable Oil.
The suit alleges that Hendricks purchased one or more 5-ounce cans of StarKist Chunk Light Tuna in Water, which “were underfilled and thus substantially underweight” and independent testing by a laboratory retained by the plaintiff’s attorney determined that the 5-ounce cans of Chunk Light Tuna in Water contain an average of only 2.35 ounces of pressed cake tuna when measured.
“This is 17.3% below the federally mandated minimum standard of fill of 2.84 ounces for these cans,” the lawsuit cites, alleging “StarKist is cheating purchasers by providing 17.3% less tuna than purchasers are paying for.”
StarKist's 5-ounce cans of Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water were also subjected to the same independent laboratory tests and found to contain an average of only 3.01 ounces of pressed caked tuna, which is 6.8% below the federally mandated minimum standard of fill of 3.23 ounces and StarKist's 5-ounce cans of Solid White Albacore Tuna in Vegetable Oil were also found to contain an average of only 3.11 ounces of pressed cake tun, 3.7% below the federally mandated minimum standard of fill of 3.23 ounces.
Hendricks accuses StarKist of nine specific counts including “negligent misrepresentation”, “unjust enrichment”, violating California consumer laws, and “fraud” and alleges that the defendant provided plaintiff with false or misleading material information and failed to disclose material facts about StarKist tuna products.
Hendricks is seeking the court’s approval for this lawsuit to be a “nationwide” class action suit, to include other consumers who may be affected by the alleged misrepresentation of StarKist Tuna products.
Hendricks is also demanding a trial by jury, to determine “compensatory and punitive damages” and asks the court to order StarKist to pay restitution in an amount to be determined by the court.
No trial date has yet been scheduled.
The suit comes more than a month after Hendricks, in a Jan. 9, 2013 letter from his attorneys, called on StarKist to take corrective action. The letter served as a “preliminary notice and demand for corrective action by StarKist” pursuant to California’s civil code.
The letter also accused StarKist of “systematically underfilling and selling short-weighted cans of StarKist Chunk Light Tuna in Water”, a violation of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act.
Hendricks' attorneys, in the same letter, demanded that StarKist “immediately cease and desist” from continuing to under-fill and sell short-weighted cans of tuna; issue an immediate recall of these under-filled short-weighted cans; and make full restitution to all purchasers of StarKist tuna of all money obtained from the sales of these products.
“...should StarKist fail to rectify the situation on a class-wide basis within 30 days of receipt of this letter, we will seek actual damages, plus punitive damages, interest, attorneys’ fees and costs,” wrote Hendricks’ attorney L. Timothy Fisher in the two-page letter included in the lawsuit as exhibit.
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