In re ConAgra Foods, Inc.
Wesson Oil Settlement
Case No. 2:11-cv-05379-CJC-AGR, MDL No. 2291

Frequently Asked Questions

 

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  • You have a right to know about a proposed Settlement of a class action lawsuit, and about your options, before the Court decides whether to approve the Settlement.

    The Court in charge of this case is the United States District Court for Central District of California (the “Court”), and the case is called In re ConAgra Foods, Inc, Case No. 2:11-cv-05379-CJC-AGR, MDL No. 2291. This case is assigned to United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney. The individuals who sued are called the Class Representatives, and the company they sued, Conagra Brands, Inc. (formerly ConAgra Foods, Inc.) (“Conagra”), is called the Defendant.

  • The lawsuit alleges that the Defendant violated certain laws in the marketing, advertising and sale of Wesson Oil Products made from Genetically Modified Ingredients (“GMOs”) as “Natural.”

    The Defendant denies any and all wrongdoing of any kind whatsoever and has asserted various defenses that it believes are meritorious.

  • In a class action, one or more people called class representatives (in this case Robert Briseño and Michele Andrade for the California Class; Jill Crouch for the Colorado Class; Julie Palmer for the Florida Class; Pauline Michael for the Illinois Class; Cheri Shafstall for the Indiana Class; Dee Hooper-Kercheval for the Nebraska Class; Kelly McFadden and Necla Musat for the New York Class; Maureen Towey for the Ohio Class; Erika Heins for the Oregon Class; Rona Johnston for the South Dakota Class; and Anita Willman for the Texas Class), sue on behalf of people who have similar claims. All these people are a class or class members. Bringing a case, such as this one, as a class action allows adjudication of many similar claims of persons and entities that might be economically too small to bring in individual actions. One court resolves the issues for all class members, except for those who exclude themselves from the class.

  • The Defendant denies that it did anything wrong. Instead, both sides, with the assistance of United States Magistrate Judge Douglas F. McCormick of the United States District Court for Central District of California acting as a mediator, have agreed to the Settlement. Both sides want to avoid the cost of further litigation. The Court has not decided in favor of the Class Representatives or the Defendant. The Class Representatives and their attorneys think the Settlement is best for the Classes.

  • The Classes consist of all natural persons who resided in one of the following eleven States and purchased Wesson Oil Products in that State, for their own personal, non-commercial use, during the following time periods:

     

    STATE CLASS PERIOD
     California  June 28, 2007 through July 1, 2017
     Colorado  January 12, 2009 through July 1, 2017
     Florida  January 12, 2008 through July 1, 2017
     Illinois  January 12, 2007 through July 1, 2017
     Indiana  January 12, 2006 through July 1, 2017
     Nebraska  January 12, 2008 through July 1, 2017
     New York  January 12, 2008 through July 1, 2017
     Ohio  January 12, 2010 through July 1, 2017
     Oregon  January 12, 2006 through July 1, 2017
     South Dakota  January 12, 2006 through July 1, 2017
     Texas  January 12, 2010 through July 1, 2017

     

    Excluded from the Classes are: (a) governmental entities; (b) Conagra, and its affiliates, subsidiaries, employees, current and former officers, directors, agents, and representatives; (c) the members of the Court and it's staff; and (d) Opt-Outs.

    If you did not reside in any of these eleven States during these time periods or did not purchase Wesson brand cooking oils in these states, then you are not a Class Member and are not affected by this Action or this Settlement.

  • “Wesson Oil Products” means Wesson brand cooking oils, including Wesson Vegetable Oil, Wesson Canola Oil, Wesson Corn Oil, and Wesson Best Blend, all of which were marketed, advertised, and sold as “Natural” during the applicable Class Periods.

  • If you are not sure whether you are a Class Member, or have any other questions about the Settlement, you may review the important court documents for this Settlement on the Important Documents page, or call the Settlement Administrator toll-free at 1-833-291-1651.

  • The Settlement provides both injunctive relief and monetary damages to all Class Members.

    Injunctive Relief

    In July 2017, approximately six years after this lawsuit began, Conagra removed the “100% Natural” claim from all Wesson labels, and stopped advertising the products as “natural.” Plaintiffs contend that this litigation was a significant factor leading to Conagra’s decision to institute labeling and marketing changes. Conagra contends its decision to change the label did not relate in any way to this litigation.

    In November 2018, the Parties agreed to a settlement that included the entry of an injunction ordering that:

    • Conagra will not advertise, market or sell Wesson Oil Products labeled as “natural” unless the FDA issues guidance or a regulation, or federal legislation is enacted, permitting use of a “natural” claim on a product containing oil derived from genetically engineered seed stock.
    • Conagra will not advertise, market or sell Wesson Oil Products as “non-GMO” unless the claim is certified by an independent third-party certification organization.
    • The Settlement does not preclude Conagra from making other changes to the advertising and marketing of Wesson Oil Products, provided that those changes do not conflict with the provisions of the Settlement.


    Approximately one month after the Parties reached this agreement, Conagra announced that it had agreed to sell the Wesson brand to Richardson International, a Canadian company.  The sale was consummated on February 25, 2019.  As a result of that sale, the Parties have revised the terms of the injunctive relief to clarify that it will apply to Conagra in the event it reacquires the Wesson brand. 

    The Parties agree that the value of this injunctive relief to the Classes is $27,000,000.

    Monetary Damages

    The Settlement also provides the following monetary benefits to Class Members: (a) $0.15 for each unit of Wesson Oils purchased by members of each of the eleven Classes to Households submitting Valid Claim Forms (with a maximum Household recovery of 30 units without proof of purchase); (b) an additional fund of $575,000 to be allocated to members of the New York and Oregon state classes who submit Valid Claim forms, as compensation for the statutory damages provided for in the consumer protection laws of those states which Plaintiffs contend apply; and (c) an additional fund of $10,000 to compensate members of each of the eleven Classes to Households submitting valid proof of purchase receipts for more than 30 purchases at $0.15 for each such purchase above 30. Should $10,000 be insufficient to cover such claims, Class Counsel shall pay the non-funded claims from any attorneys’ fees awarded in this case; should the $10,000 fund not be exhausted, the remaining funds will revert to category (b) above for payment to the New York and Oregon state Classes.

    Recovery is limited to one Claim per Household, which means all persons residing at the same physical address.

  • ALL CLASS MEMBERS

    Class Members who timely submit a valid approved claim are entitled to receive Settlement compensation of Fifteen Cents ($0.15) per unit of the Wesson Oil Product purchased during the relevant Class Period.

    Class Members may submit a claim for up to a maximum of 30 units per Household without proof of purchase. Class Members who provide proof of purchase receipts for more than 30 units to the satisfaction of the Settlement Administrator may receive Settlement compensation of Fifteen Cents ($0.15) for all units with receipts.

    Proof of Purchase means an itemized retail sales receipt showing, at a minimum, the purchase of the Product, and the date, place and amount of purchase.

    Only one (1) Claim Form can be submitted per Household, which is defined as all persons residing at the same physical address.

    NEW YORK AND OREGON CLASS MEMBERS

    The Settlement includes a $575,000 fund to be allocated solely among New York and Oregon Class Members who submit valid claim forms, in proportion to the number of units they purchased at retail during the relevant time period. This fund is to compensate New York and Oregon Class Members for the statutory damages provided for in the consumer protections laws of those states that Plaintiffs contend apply.

  • To be eligible to receive a payment from the Settlement, you must complete and submit a timely Claim Form. You can complete and submit your Claim Form here on the Settlement Website. The Claim Form can also be downloaded here as well. You can also request a Claim Form be sent to you by sending a written request to the Settlement Administrator by mail or by email:

    By Mail: Wesson Oil Settlement, c/o JND Legal Administration, P.O. Box 91249, Seattle, WA 98111-9349

    By Emailinfo@wessonoilsettlement.com

    Please read the instructions carefully, fill out the Claim Form, and mail it postmarked no later than August 22, 2019 to the Settlement Administrator: Wesson Oil Settlement, c/o JND Legal Administration, P.O. Box 91249, Seattle, WA 98111-9349, or submit your Claim Form online by August 22, 2019.

    If Class Members do not submit a Valid Claim Form by the deadline, you will not receive a Settlement payment, but you will be bound by the Court’s judgment in this Action.

  • Payments will be made to Class Members who submit valid and timely Claim Forms after the Court grants “final approval” to the Settlement and after all appeals are resolved. If the Court approves the Settlement, there may be appeals. It’s always uncertain whether these appeals can be resolved and resolving them can take time. Please be patient.

  • If you are a Class Member, unless you exclude yourself from the Settlement, you cannot sue the Defendant, continue to sue, or be part of any other lawsuit against the Defendant about the claims released in this Settlement. It also means that all the decisions by the Court will bind you. The Released Claims and Released Parties are defined in the Settlement Agreement and describe the legal claims that you give up if you stay in the Settlement. The Released Claims shall not include any claim against the Released Parties for bodily injury allegedly suffered in connection with the purchase or use of the Wesson Oil Products. The Settlement Agreement is available here.

  • If you don’t want a payment from the Settlement or you want to keep the right to sue or continue to sue the Defendant on your own about the claims released in this Settlement, then you must take steps to get out. This is called excluding yourself—or it is sometimes referred to as “opting out” of the Settlement.

  • To exclude yourself (or “Opt-Out”) from the Settlement, you must complete and mail to the Settlement Administrator a written request. The request to opt out must:

    • bear the handwritten signature of the Class Member seeking to opt out;
    • set out the Class Member’s full legal name, valid mailing address, and functioning telephone number;
    • state that the Class Member has reviewed and understood the Class Notice and chooses to be excluded from the Settlement; and
    • provide the name of and contact information for the Class Member’s attorney, if represented by an attorney.


    You must mail your exclusion request, postmarked no later than August 6, 2019 to:

    Wesson Oil Settlement
    Exclusions
    c/o JND Legal Administration
    P.O. Box 91250
    Seattle, WA 98111-9350

    You cannot exclude yourself by telephone or by e-mail. If you ask to be excluded, you will not get any Settlement payment, and you cannot object to the Settlement. You will not be legally bound by anything that happens in this lawsuit, and you may be able to sue (or continue to sue) the Defendant and the other Released Parties about the claims in this lawsuit.

    No person or entity may opt-out on behalf of another Class Member. No class-wide, mass opt-outs, or opt-outs signed by attorneys are permitted.

    If you don’t include the required information or timely submit your request for exclusion, you will remain a Class Member and will not be able to sue the Defendant about the claims in this lawsuit.

  • No. Unless you exclude yourself, you give up any right to sue the Defendant for the claims that this Settlement resolves. If you have a pending lawsuit, speak to your lawyer in that lawsuit immediately. You must exclude yourself from this Settlement to continue your own lawsuit. If you properly exclude yourself from the Settlement, you shall not be bound by any orders or judgments entered in the Action relating to the Settlement.

  • No. You will not get any money from the Settlement if you exclude yourself. If you exclude yourself from the Settlement, do not send in a Claim Form asking for benefits.

  • Yes. The Court has appointed DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC and Milberg Tadler Phillips Grossman LLP as Class Counsel.

    You will not be charged for these lawyers. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.

  • Class Counsel will file a motion on or before July 23, 2019 seeking an award of up to $6,850,000 in fees and expenses, as well as service awards of up to (a) $3,000 for each of the six Class Representatives whose depositions were taken by Conagra (Robert Briseño, Michele Andrade, Jill Crouch, Pauline Michael, Necla Musat, and Maureen Towey) and (b) $1,000 for each of the seven whose depositions were not taken (Julie Palmer, Cheri Shafstall, Dee Hooper-Kercheval, Kelly McFadden, Erika Heins, Rona Johnston, and Anita Willman). The Court will determine the amounts of fees, expense and service awards, which will be paid by Conagra separately from the monetary relief paid to the Classes. Plaintiffs’ Counsel spent considerable time and effort prosecuting this matter on a purely contingent fee basis, and advanced the expenses of the litigation, in the expectation that they would receive a fee, and have expenses reimbursed, only if there was a benefit created for the Classes. Class Counsel represents that the requested attorneys’ fees are less than their billable hourly fees would have been had the case not been pursued on a contingent-fee basis.

    After Class Counsel’s motion for attorneys’ fees and expenses is filed on or before July 23, 2019, it will be posted on this website. You will have an opportunity to comment on this fee request.

  • Any Class Member who does not timely and properly opt out of the Settlement may object to the fairness, reasonableness, or adequacy of the proposed Settlement under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Each Class Member who wishes to object to any term of this Settlement must do so, in writing, by filing a written objection with the Clerk of the Court and mailing it to Class Counsel, counsel for Conagra, and the Settlement Administrator.

    The written objection must include: (a) copies of any materials that the objector intends to submit to the Court or present at the Fairness Hearing; (b) be personally signed by the objector and, if represented by counsel, by his or her counsel; (c) include information or documents sufficient to show that the objector is a Class Member; and (d) clearly state in detail (i) the legal and factual ground(s) for the objection, (ii) the objecting Class Member’s name, mailing address, email address, and telephone number, (iii) whether it applies only to the objector, to a specific subset of the class, or to the entire class, (iv) if represented by counsel, such counsel’s name, email address, mailing address, and telephone number, (v) any request to present argument to the Court at the Fairness Hearing; (vi) previous objections that the objecting Class Member has filed in class action settlements in the past five years and the results of those objections (including any settlements that were reached concerning his or her objection); and (vii) previous objections that the objecting Class Member’s counsel has filed either in a representative capacity or on their own behalf in the past five years (including any settlements that were reached concerning those objections).

    Your objection, along with any supporting material you wish to submit, must be filed with the Court, with a copy delivered to Class Counsel and Defendant’s Counsel no later than August 6, 2019 at the following addresses:

    Clerk of the Court
    Office of the Clerk
    United States District Court for the Central District of California
    350 W. 1st Street, Suite 4311
    Los Angeles, CA 90012
     

    Class Counsel
    Ariana J. Tadler
    Milberg Tadler Phillips Grossman LLP
    One Penn Plaza, Suite 1920
    New York, NY 10119
     

    Counsel for Conagra
    Angela M. Spivey
    Alston & Bird
    One Atlantic Center
    1201 W Peachtree Street, NE
    Atlanta, GA 30309-1404
     

    Class Counsel
    Adam J. Levitt
    DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC
    Ten North Dearborn Street, Eleventh Floor
    Chicago, IL 60602
     

  • Objecting is simply telling the Court that you don’t like something about the Settlement. You can object to the Settlement only if you do not exclude yourself from the Settlement. Excluding yourself from the Settlement is telling the Court that you don’t want to be part of the Settlement. If you exclude yourself from the Settlement, you have no basis to object to the Settlement because it no longer affects you.

  • The Court will hold a Fairness Hearing on October 7, 2019 at 1:30 p.m. at the United States Courthouse, 350 W. 1st Street, Courtroom 7C, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

    At the Fairness Hearing, the Court will consider whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. The Court will also consider how much to pay Class Counsel and the Class Representatives. If there are objections, the Court will consider them at this time. After the hearing, the Court will decide whether to approve the Settlement. We do not know how long these decisions will take.

  • No. Class Counsel will answer any questions that the Court may have, but you may come at your own expense. If you submit an objection, you don’t have to come to Court to talk about it. As long as you filed and mailed your written objection on time to the proper addresses, the Court will consider it. You may also pay your own lawyer to attend, but it’s not necessary.

  • Yes. You may ask the Court for permission to speak at the Fairness Hearing. To do so, you must send a letter saying that it is your “Notice of Intent to Appear.” Your request must be filed with the Clerk of the Court and served on Class Counsel and Defendant’s Counsel no later than August 6, 2019.

    Any such request must state the name, address, and telephone number of the Class Member, as well as the name, address, and telephone number of the person that shall appear on his or her behalf. Any request for appearance that fails to satisfy these requirements, or that has otherwise not been properly or timely submitted, shall be deemed ineffective and a waiver of such Class Member’s rights to appear and to comment on the Settlement at the Fairness Hearing. Only the Parties, Class Members, or their counsel may request to appear and be heard at the Fairness Hearing. Persons or entities that opt out may not request to appear and be heard at the Fairness Hearing.

  • If you do nothing, you will not get a payment from the Settlement. Unless you exclude yourself, you won’t be able to start a lawsuit, continue with a lawsuit, or be part of any other lawsuit against the Defendant about the legal issues in this case, ever again.

  • The Notice summarizes the proposed Settlement. More details are in the Settlement Agreement. If you have additional questions or want to submit a Claim Form, you can file a claim here or contact the Settlement Administrator:

    By Mail: Wesson Oil Settlement, c/o JND Legal Administration, P.O. Box 91249, Seattle, WA 98111-9349

    By Emailinfo@wessonoilsettlement.com

    By Phone Toll-Free: 1-833-291-1651

    Updates will be posted on this website as information about the Settlement process becomes available.

    For a more detailed statement of the matters involved in the litigation or the Settlement, you may review the various documents on the Important Documents page of this Settlement Website and/or the other documents filed in this case by visiting (during business hours) the clerk’s office at the United States District Court for the Central District of California, First Street Courthouse, 350 W. 1st Street, Suite 4311, Los Angeles, CA 90012, File: In re ConAgra Foods, Inc, Case No. 2:11-cv-05379-CJC-AGR, or by accessing the docket in this case through the Court’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system at https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov.

    PLEASE DO TELEPHONE THE COURT OR THE COURT CLERK’S OFFICE TO INQUIRE ABOUT THE SETTLEMENT OR THE CLAIM PROCESS.

For More Information

Visit this website often to get the most up-to-date information.

Mail

Wesson Oil Settlement
c/o JND Legal Administration
PO Box 91249
Seattle, WA 98111-9349