Peanut butter has been a staple of the American diet for well over 100 years, but it is rarely newsworthy. That changed recently after J.M. Smucker Co. (“Smucker”) pulled some of its famous Jif-brand peanut butter products from shelves across the country.
In mid-May, Smucker recalled several varieties of Jif peanut butter as a result of potential salmonella contamination after customers reported illnesses in several states. Shortly after the recall, on May 25, South Carolina resident, John Kraljevich filed a putative class action lawsuit in Kentucky, Kraljevich v. The J.M. Smucker Company, No. 5:22-cv-00134-GFVT (E.D. Ky. filed May 25, 2022). Although plaintiff Kraljevich does not allege that he contracted salmonella or was ever sick after consuming Jif peanut butter, he alleges that he would not have purchased these products if he had known about the contamination and as a result, he and other purchasers suffered economic loss. Plaintiff Kraljevich asserts claims for breach of warranty, negligence, strict liability, fraud, unjust enrichment, and punitive damages on behalf of himself as well as nationwide and South Carolina classes of purchasers of the recalled products.
Since Kraljevich, a consumer in Illinois and another consumer in South Carolina, have filed their own putative class actions related to the recall. Like Kraljevich, the plaintiff in Bopp v. The J.M. Smucker Co., 22-cv-1812, (D.S.C. filed June 8, 2022), asserts claims for breach of warranty, negligence, strict liability, fraud, unjust enrichment, and punitive damages, and seeks to represent nationwide and South Carolina classes of purchasers in recovering for economic loss. More recently, Illinois resident Tyneisha Ferguson goes further in her suit, Ferguson. v. The J.M. Smucker, Co. 22-cv-173, E.D. Ky. (June 29, 2022), seeking to recover for both economic loss and for “time and money spent to address symptoms and consequences of ingesting the Contaminated Products, personal injuries, emotional distress, and annoyance” after she allegedly fell ill. In addition to warranty, negligence, strict liability, and unjust enrichment claims, plaintiff also alleges a violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. She seeks to represent nationwide and Illinois classes of individuals who purchased or consumed the recalled products.
Since May, other peanut butter products have also been recalled because of the risk of salmonella contamination, including a limited quantity of F&S Produce’s Power Protein Snacks and Taharka Brothers’ Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream, both of which use Jif peanut butter among other ingredients. As of yet, no illnesses have been linked to these other products, but this is likely the beginning of the individual and class action lawsuits involving the issue.