Tag Archives Illinois

Selective Insurance Co. of South Carolina has filed a declaratory judgment action against Phusion Projects, Inc., which makes and sells the caffeinated alcohol beverage Four Loko®, claiming that it owes no duty to defend or indemnify Phusion in a number of pending lawsuits. Selective Ins. Co. of S. Car. v. Phusion Projects Inc., No. 11-03378 (N.D. Ill., filed May 19, 2011). The lawsuits involve claims that the product was responsible for teenagers’ deaths or injury, its promotions violated consumer protection laws, and the product’s packaging infringed trade dress. According to the insurer, (i) its policy was not in effect as to some of the plaintiffs, whose alleged injuries occurred either before the policy took effect or after the insurer cancelled the policy; and (ii) the policy’s terms expressly or unambiguously preclude coverage for certain claims, including those involving intoxication. The insurer seeks a declaration that the policy does not provide coverage for…

According to a news source, the family of a teenager has sued Phusion Projects, which makes the alcohol energy drink Four Loko®, alleging that their son’s disorientation after drinking two of the beverages led to his fatal accident. Rupp v. Phusion Projects, No. __ (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook Cty., filed May 19, 2011). He allegedly consumed the beverage during a concert in 2010, and his parents picked him up after concert staff contacted them claiming the boy “appeared extremely intoxicated.” The family alleges that their son acted “paranoid and disoriented” on the ride home and took off running when they arrived home. He apparently died when he was struck by a car after running onto a busy highway. The family reportedly alleges in the wrongful death lawsuit that the company “was careless and negligent in formulating a caffeinated, alcoholic beverage that desensitizes users to the symptoms of intoxication, and increases…

The Illinois House of Representatives has approved a bill (H.B. 1600) that would prohibit “food facilities” from selling food containing artificial trans fats. Effective January 1, 2013, the law would apply to any “entity that prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption at the retail level,” including public and private school vending machines. Starting January 1, 2016, the bill would broaden to eliminate the use of artificial trans fats from cafeterias operated by state or local governments or by public or private schools. Most prepackaged foods would be exempt. If approved by the Illinois Senate and signed by the governor, the law would make Illinois and California the only states to enact trans fat bans. According to the bill’s sponsor, Representative La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), Illinois has the 10th highest percent of obese and overweight children in the country. “Health problems cost our state so much…

A putative class action has apparently been filed in a federal court in Illinois by six named plaintiffs who allegedly became ill after consuming Salmonella-tainted eggs from Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms in Iowa. The plaintiffs’ attorney has reportedly been given permission to inspect the farms for evidence. According to a news source, the plaintiffs allege that the companies’ negligence is responsible for the outbreak and suggest that more than the known 1,500 individuals sickened by the contaminated eggs could be class members. In a related development, news sources report that Wright County Egg had dozens of positive results for Salmonella from swabs taken on conveyor belts and in other facility areas as early as 2008 and failed to notify local, state or federal officials. Animal safety experts reportedly called such contamination “surprising” and suggested that repeated positives indicate the company was not “getting to the root cause of what the…

A federal court in Illinois has dismissed claims that companies failing to disclose that the fiber in their snack-bar and yogurt products is “non-natural” chicory root-based inulin, which allegedly lacks the same health benefits as “natural” fiber, have violated state consumer fraud laws. Turek v. General Mills, Inc., No. 09-7038 (N.D. Ill., decided September 1, 2010). According to the court, the plaintiff’s claims are expressly preempted by the federal Nutritional Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) because they would impose requirements under state law that are not identical to federal law requirements. The products at issue are labeled with statements about the percent of daily fiber they contain or grams of fiber provided per serving. Discussing the application of preemption provisions in various federal laws, the court also sets out all of the federal regulations pertaining to fiber in foods. The court concludes, “plaintiff wants to change the labeling on defendants’…

According to a news source, a man who worked in a Chicago-area plant for eight years and was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans has been awarded $30.4 million on claims that workplace exposure to the butter-flavoring chemical diacetyl left him with 25 percent of normal lung capacity that will require a lung transplant within the next 10 years. Solis v. BASF Corp., No. ___ (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook Cty.) The largest verdict previously awarded in a similar case was $20 million to a former popcorn plant worker in Missouri. Plaintiff Gerardo Solis, 45, was represented by Independence, Missouri, attorney Ken McClain. See The Joplin Globe, August 16, 2010.

A federal court in Illinois has dismissed claims that Coca-Cola labeling for its “classic” and “original formula” soda products violated consumer fraud laws because the products contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which did not exist when the beverage was first sold in the 1880s. Kremers v. Coca-Cola Company, No. 09-333 (S.D. Ill., decided April 27, 2010). One named plaintiff in this putative class action apparently testified during her deposition that she knew the products contained HFCS as early as the 1990s. The court found the litigation time-barred as to her claims. Another named plaintiff testified that he did not realize the product’s label included the phrase “original formula” until counsel brought it to his attention. The court found that he failed to establish an essential element of his deception claim. Because both testified that they continued to buy the product despite knowing that its sweetener differed from the formulation sold…

A federal court in Illinois has dismissed putative class claims alleging that Denny’s Corp. fails to inform consumers that some of its menu items contain excessive levels of salt. Ciszewski v. Denny’s Corp., No. 09-5355 (N.D. Ill., decided April 7, 2010). Additional information about the case can be found in issue 318 of this Update. The court determined that the named plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead a violation of the state’s consumer fraud statute because he failed to identify any particular deceptive communication generated by Denny’s. Indeed, plaintiff made clear that his claim was based on alleged deceptive omissions. Because Illinois law requires “some communication from the defendant, either a communication containing a deceptive misrepresentation or one with a deceptive omission,” the court ruled that he had “failed to plead the circumstances constituting the fraud with sufficient particularity.” With the fraud claim dismissed, the court also dismissed derivative unjust enrichment…

A federal court in Illinois has dismissed with prejudice the second amended complaint filed in putative class litigation alleging that a chicken processing company violated state consumer fraud and protection laws by selling its whole chickens with the extra giblets that it cannot sell with its cut-up chicken portions or as pet food. Nieto v. Perdue Farms, Inc., No. 08-07399 (N.D. Ill., filed March 17, 2010). According to the complaint, the defendant placed more than one heart, liver, gizzard, or neck in the whole chickens the company sold, thereby increasing the total weight of a whole chicken and “effectively forcing consumers to subsidize [defendant’s] costs of disposing of the extra giblets.” The named plaintiff also alleged that the company concealed its policy of including the extra offal when communicating with customers “through advertising generally and at the point of sale.” Finding that it had jurisdiction over the claims under the…

A number of microwave popcorn workers and their spouses have reportedly filed a complaint against a flavoring company in a federal court in Illinois, alleging personal injuries, loss of consortium and wrongful death from exposure to the butter flavoring diacetyl. Barker v. Int’l Flavors & Fragrances, Inc., No. 10-48 (S.D. Ill., filed January 21, 2010). The workers were apparently employed by AgriLink, a microwave popcorn manufacturer; they claim that diacetyl exposure can cause the lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans. According to the complaint, the defendant misrepresented the chemical’s safety and hid research on its risks from users. The plaintiffs apparently allege negligence and products liability and are seeking compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and costs. See Mealey’s Food Liability, February 2, 2010.

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