Family Dollar knowingly sold products potentially contaminated by rodents, both dead and alive, at hundreds of its retail stores in six states, according to a proposed class action filed in Mississippi federal court.
The lawsuit centers on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s discovery of an infestation of more than a thousand rodents at the retail chain’s West Memphis, Arkansas, distribution facility. The suit says the company was aware of and intentionally hid this information from consumers so that its bottom line would not be hurt.
FDA inspectors found “dead rodents in various states of decay,” along with urine, droppings, evidence of gnawing and a rat smell through the Arkansas facility.
“More than 1,100 dead rodents were recovered from the facility following a fumigation at the facility in January 2022,” the FDA said in a statement.
Overall, 404 stores located in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee received products from this one facility.
On the same day of the agency’s announcement, Family Dollar’s parent company Dollar Tree Inc. issued a voluntary recall of drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, dietary supplements, and all food meant for human and pet consumption that were sold at any of the stores.
But this recall comes late, the lawsuit says. The complaint highlights that when the FDA reviewed Family Dollar’s internal records, the agency discovered the company had collected some 2,300 rodents from the facility last year between March 29 and Sept. 17.
The proposed class action hopes to represent Family Dollar consumers from the five states who shopped at the hundreds of stores. The four lead plaintiffs are residents of Mississippi and shopped at stores located in Durant, Pearl and Jackson.
They claim to have purchased items as early as September 2021 through February 2022 from the stores. All say they would not have bought the products had they been aware of the dangers. One plaintiff, Sheena Bibbs, claims she bought dietary products, food, baby medicine and soap in January and February of this year.
Rodents pose a number of health hazards for humans, especially young children, the elderly, the immunocompromised and the pregnant. Rats can carry a number of illnesses such as salmonella.
Family Dollar said it was not aware of any persons becoming sick from its products.
The suit accuses Family Dollar of violating a number of the states’ consumer protection laws, deceptive trade and practices statutes; unfair trade acts; breach of implied warranty; unjust enrichment; and negligence.