Shook, Hardy & Bacon Partner Marc Shelley and Associate Emily Fedeles
recently spoke with Food Navigator about a proposal contained in French
Minister of Health Marisol Touraine’s National Health Bill that would extend
class actions to claims involving injuries to health. According to the August
7, 2014, article, the bill seeks to expand a new consumer law that established
class action procedures for consumer-protection and antitrust claims but
stopped short of including personal-injury claims.

Noting that the current proposal targets food and beverage manufacturers
making product-health claims, Shelley and Fedeles warn that these changes
are only the latest in a “troubling” trend that could affect the entire industry
as more member states move to expand the scope of their class-action laws.
With companies granted only one opportunity to defend against collective
claims, Fedeles adds, “[y]ou only get one bite at the apple and of course
there’s a difference between paying a couple thousand Euros to one plaintiff,
and paying a couple thousand Euros to a couple thousand plaintiffs.”

“In order to ensure the right types of actions are being brought by the right
types of claimants against the right types of companies, you need to have clear provisions in the rule to allow the parties and the courts to make that
decision,” explains Shelley. “The consequence for that is that it can raise
prices, it can scare off companies. It can stifle innovation because the fear is
you’re going to get hit with a class action and it’s going to take away from the
company and away from their bottom line and their stock prices.”


Issue 533

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.