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Royal Canin U.S.A. v. Wullschleger

Two Missouri pet owners, Anastasia Wullschleger and Geraldine Brewer, filed a class-action lawsuit in state court against two pet-food companies, Royal Canin and Nestle Purina. The complaint alleges that the two companies working together intentionally misled and deceived them into believing that certain of their products could be legally obtained only by prescription. The plaintiffs claim that the products, which they purchased at a substantial premium, contained the same or similar ingredients as cheaper products sold by the companies, contained no medicine, and did not legally require a prescription. Ms. Wullschleger and Ms. Brewer asserted claims under Missouri antitrust law and consumer protection law.

One of the companies removed the case to federal district court, and the Eighth Circuit subsequently held that the state-law claims in the plaintiffs’ initial pleading implicated “substantial federal questions,” and thus gave rise to federal subject-matter jurisdiction. Back in district court, the plaintiffs amended their complaint to drop the claims that the Eighth Circuit had held raised federal questions. After the district court ruled against the plaintiffs on the merits, they appealed to the Eighth Circuit, which held sua sponte that the plaintiffs’ amendment of their complaint had eliminated any basis for the federal district court to exercise jurisdiction. The Eighth Circuit therefore vacated the judgment and directed the district court to remand the case to Missouri state court.

The pet food companies sought Supreme Court review, arguing that the Eighth Circuit’s decision conflicted with cases decided by other courts of appeals. We serve as co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court. The brief in opposition explains that any difference between the circuits’ approaches was irrelevant to the outcome of this case, because there was never federal jurisdiction to begin with and because remand is the proper outcome under the standards applied by every court of appeals.

The Supreme Court granted review and the case will be argued in fall 2024.