Attorneys for Humphrey, Farrington & McClain obtained a favorable ruling on a motion for class certification in a lawsuit against the Dollar General Corporation.
The order allows consumers of obsolete Dollar General house-brand motor oil in 16 states, including Missouri and Kansas, to proceed against the discount retail chain as part of a class action.
Prior to 2017, Dollar General’s store-brand 10W-30, 10W-40 and SAE 30 motor oil was only suitable for vehicles built before 1988. Yet Dollar General placed it on shelves beside more expensive name-brand motor oils, such as PEAK, Pennzoil and Castrol, at all of its stores between late 2010 and the spring of 2016.
Dollar General sold these products even though it knew that it was potentially harmful to automotive engines.
The federal court ruling allows class action claims of unjust enrichment, violation of consumer protection laws and breach of implied warranty to proceed. The other states where class-action suits have been filed are California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.
The sale of obsolete motor oil by Dollar General prompted a wave of lawsuits around the country, starting in 2015. Those suits were later combined by the Multidistrict Litigation Panel into a consolidated proceeding in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. Plaintiffs argued that Dollar General misled consumers about the oil’s usefulness and potential harm to vehicles.
“Dollar General’s placement of their house-brand motor oils next to name-brand motor oils defined its product as simply another and less expensive variety of the same product as the other brands displayed,” said Kenneth B. McClain, senior partner for Humphrey, Farrington & McClain. “And by placing them on the same shelves and in similar quantities as the other motor oils, they were telling the typical shopper that the products are the same.”
The only mention that Dollar General gave of its motor oils’ suitability was on the back label’s small print. The placement on the shelves along with the lack of clear and prominent warning presented a misleading impression of the product.
The consumers are represented by Kenneth B. McClain, Kevin D. Stanley, Colin W. McClain, J’Nan C. Kimak, and Andrew K. Smith of Humphrey Farrington & McClain PC and Allan Kanner and Cynthia St. Amant of Kanner & Whiteley LLC.