Administering a Pet Food Products Liability MDL Settlement

In Re: Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. Dog Food Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2887, Case No. 2:19-md-02887-JAR-TJJ

Case Summary

The settlement of In Re: Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. Dog Food Product Liability Litigation resolved claims that certain varieties of Hill’s Prescription Science and Diet Science canned dog food were defective in their safety and quality because they contained dangerously high levels of Vitamin D which could cause dogs to experience serious health issues and even death. Under the terms of this MDL class action settlement, defendant Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. (Hill’s) agreed to pay $12.5M into a common fund settlement.

The Challenge

The parties’ settlement agreement provided settlement benefits to any class members who submitted valid claims, including:

  • Class member claimants without proofs of purchase received up to $20.
  • Class member claimants with proofs of purchase received 100% of their documented losses.
  • Class member claimants with dog injury claims received payment for expenses incurred for the testing and treatment, and the injury or death of a dog.

Kroll’s challenge was twofold: to notify class members of these settlement benefits and to review and evaluate hundreds of dog injury and death claims.

Kroll mailed the long form notice and claim form to nearly 12,000 class members and sent email notice to over 14,500 class members. However, class counsel estimated that over one million cans of the dog food were sold to consumers in the U.S. during the class period. Therefore, the vast majority of class members did not receive direct notice via mail or email. Kroll was therefore required to formulate a notice plan that included print and digital notice publication to reach these settlement class members. Kroll’s notice media team has decades of experience and resources, which made Kroll uniquely qualified to design and implement such a plan.

Kroll’s Solution

Prior to serving any direct, publication, or media notice to class members, Kroll built an informational settlement website with functionality for online claims filing and document uploading. Important documents posted on the settlement website were available in both English and Spanish. Kroll also secured a toll-free phone number, built an IVR system that was available 24/7, and trained live operators to assist class members with any additional questions.

Kroll’s notice program and supplemental notice program employed best-in-class tools and technology to reach an estimated 80% of the targeted class nationwide, on average approximately 2.4 times, across several mediums.

Specifically, Kroll’s notice media team published a full-page advertisement in National Geographic and a two-thirds page advertisement in The Journal of the American Veterinarian Medical Association. Approximately 148 million online display, search and social media ads were served. Online display ads were able to target known in-market purchasers and past purchasers of wet dog food. In addition, Facebook and Instagram ads targeted people who had “liked” or “followed” pet food and related social pages such as Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Science Diet, Petco, PetSmart, and Chewy pages as well as dog owners. Keyword search targeting was employed to show ads in Google search results. Display ads and social media ads were also used to retarget users who visited the settlement website. Additionally, a press release was issued that resulted in approximately 102 news mentions of the settlement.

To further promote claims filing, the District Court approved a supplemental notice program which ran for over one month during the claims filing period. The supplemental notice program consisted of display ads, keyword search advertising and social media ads on Facebook and Instagram. These media channels were chosen based on high engagement during the initial notice program.

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