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Will County man files class action suit over dog food; alleges claims of joint health benefits are false

By Kenneth Lowe | Mar 12, 2014

Editor's Note: Court records indicate this case was dismissed for failure to state a claim on July 22, 2014. 

A class action suit leveled at an Arizona pet food company claims the dogs who eat one of its types of chow are unwittingly victims of quackery and false advertising.

Derek Gubala filed suit March 3 against Simply Nourish Pet Food Company LLC in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, claiming the company's "Hip & Joint" brand of food doesn't work as advertised.

“Through a widespread nationwide marketing campaign, Simply Nourish promises that the Product will support and help maintain hip and joint function and flexibility," Gubala states in his suit. "Simply Nourish asserts that the ingredient glucosamine will provide these significant health benefits."

But, the suit asserts, it doesn't.

Gubala, a Will County resident,  spent $12 on the pet food in question at a PetSmart store in Bolingbrook in January, after which he claims he suffered injury-in-fact and lost money.

“These claimed health benefits are the only reason a consumer would purchase the product,” he contends in his suit. “Simply Nourish's advertising claims, however, are false, misleading, and reasonably likely to deceive the public.”

Sold in a 16-oz. container, the “Level 3: Maximum” product at the crux of Gubala's complaint states on the labeling that active ingredients include glucosamine and chondroitin, two dietary supplements the company claims promote joint health in dogs.

“Simply Nourish communicated the same substantive message on all of the Product's packaging and labeling: the Product will improve the health of joints of consumer's pets,” the suit alleges.

According to conventional scientific wisdom, however, Gubala contends the dog food may contain the things it purports to, but studies show it hardly makes a difference.

“The scientific evidence indicates no joint health benefits resulting from the consumption of glucosamine, whether taken alone or in combination,” the suit reads.

It goes on to cite a number of scientific studies dating back to 2004 that debunk the effectiveness of the ingredients in question, including 2008 and 2010 studies that reported the ingredients “did not rebuild cartilage and were otherwise ineffective.”

“As the evidence indicates, glucosamine is ineffective at improving the joint health in any animal, including dogs,” the complaint states. “Even though numerous clinical studies have found that glucosamine – alone or in combination – is ineffective, Simply Nourish continues to make representations on its packaging and labeling for the Product which repeat and reinforce the fraudulent health claims.”

Gubala's suit proposes a national class that would include all persons who purchased the Simply Nourish Hip & Joint product, excluding those who brought it for resale. It also proposes an Illinois class that would include Illinoisans who purchased the product, with the same exclusions.

Alleging a violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, Gubula argues that Simply Nourish's “deceptive misrepresentations, concealments and omissions” injured him and the proposed class, and that the sale and distribution of the product in Illinois constitutes “deceptive acts and practices.”

He is seeking statutory, compensatory and actual damages, including restitution and disgorgement of revenues to class members, and a court order to enjoin Simply Nourish from continuing to sell the product as advertised.

Gubala is represented by Chicago attorneys Joseph J. Siprut, Gregg M. Barbakoff and Gregory W. Jones of Siprut PC.

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