Internet Pet Food Rumors, Dispelled

By Marion Nestle

A reader, Valerie Watkins, comments on my previous post about the long delay in settling the lawsuits over the pets harmed by the melamine scandals of 2007. She writes:

The internet has several articles indicating the law firm that is handling the money helped themselves to the cash and there is no money remaining. Several reports indicate there are NO objections by anyone, it is just the law firms response to not allowing the claims to be paid out. After 3 years of waiting, I believe it. Pet owner's will wait for nothing, the money appears to have been spent on those trusted with paying out the claims.

Oh dear. The Internet is a wonderful invention but has one serious flaw: its content is unedited. People can say whatever they like no matter how far from the truth. I have learned not to trust anything I read on the Internet unless I know that its source is reliable.

My immediate reaction to Valerie's comment: Could this possibly be true?

No, it most definitely cannot.

Take a look at the court documents. Two appeals are still pending in the Third Circuit court. Until those appeals are settled, the money is in escrow and nobody--not even the lawyers--can touch it. The documents clearly state that the lawyers are not to be paid until all appeals are resolved and the judgment is in effect.

The administrator of the settlement explains:

No payments may be made on eligible claims until all appeals are resolved. THE APPEALS HAVE BEEN FULLY BRIEFED AND WE NOW AWAIT THE DECISION OF THE APPELLATE COURT. It is uncertain how long these appeals will take to resolve, and the timing of resolving the appeals is not within the control of the parties or their counsel. It is not uncommon for appeals to take several months or even years to resolve.

For anyone with a pet harmed by eating tainted pet food, the long delay is painful. It would be a help to have the settlement resolved. But the delay is not caused by the lawyers who are representing aggrieved pet owners. It is also in the lawyers' best interest to settle the suit as quickly as possible.

When it comes to the Internet, don't believe everything you read. And check sources! In case of the pet food class action suit, the documents are on the Internet and available to everyone who takes the trouble to see what they really say.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/12/internet-pet-food-rumors-dispelled/32765/