The U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for a punitive class action suit by a New Jersey woman who alleges that she suffered mercury poisoning from Chicken of the Sea canned tuna. The case was filed under the Product Liability Act of the state of New Jersey, which requires warnings on labels of potentially harmful substances in canned goods. The plaintiff seeks punitive damages in addition to future medical expenses and attorney fees.
The plaintiff, Deborah Fellner, asserts that she constantly consumed Chicken of the Sea tuna for a stretch of five years beginning in 1999 and contracted mercury poisoning as a result in 2006. The case was first removed to federal court, and then in 2007, U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh dismissed it finding that the claims were pre-empted by FDA regulations.
The 3rd Circuit, however, asserts that the FDA addressed the toxicity issue primarily through an advisory by recommending maximum levels of consumption for certain groups including pregnant and nursing mothers and young children–but did impose a regulation on tuna consumption with which a standard would conflict.
Counsel is not commenting on the case, Fellner v. Tri-Union Seafoods LLC and has referred questions to a public relations agency.