Byline: Derek Hawkins
7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Case Name: Holly B. Vanzant, et al. v. Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc., et al.
Case No.: 17-3633
Officials: FLAUM, MANION, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.
Focus: Restitution Unjust Enrichment
Holly Vanzant and Dana Land own cats with health problems. Their veterinarians prescribed cat food manufactured by Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc., and sold under Hill's "Prescription Diet" brand. For several years Vanzant and Land purchased this higher-priced cat food from their local PetSmart stores using their veterinarian's prescriptions. They eventually learned, however, that the Prescription Diet cat food is not materially different from nonprescription cat food. And the prescription requirement is illusory; no prescription is necessary. Feeling deceived, Vanzant and Land filed a class-action lawsuit against Hill's and PetSmart, Inc., asserting claims under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 ILL. COMP. STAT. 505/1 et seq., and for unjust enrichment.
The district judge dismissed the Consumer Fraud Act claim for two reasons: (1) the complaint lacked the specificity required for a fraud claim; and (2) the claim is barred by a statutory safe harbor for conduct specifically authorized by a regulatory bodyhere, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ("FDA"). The judge dismissed the unjust-enrichment claim because it was premised on the same conduct as the statutory claim.
We reverse. First, the safe-harbor provision does not apply. Under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 301 et seq., pet food intended to treat or prevent disease and marketed as such is considered a drug and requires approval of a new animal drug application. Without FDA approval, the manufacturer may not sell it in interstate commerce and the product is deemed adulterated and misbranded. The FDA issued guidance recognizing that most...