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June 8, 2016

Volume 17 Issue 52

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Judicial Panel Centralizes Dollar General Lawsuits

The U. S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation approved a request by Dolgencorp LLC, owner of Dollar General discount stores, to centralize pretrial proceedings of 18 lawsuits and two related actions against the company over alleged sale of store-brand obsolete motor oils.

The original complaint filed by a consumer in California alleged that Dollar General sold its DG-branded SAE-10W-30, SAE 10W-40 motor oils, along with SAE 30 motor oils, without adequately warning that the products were unsuitable for most modern automotive engines built after 1930 and 1988, respectively. A total of 20 related actions against the chain of variety stores have since ensued in 18 states.

The panel favored centralizing the 18 suits against Dollar General in the Western District of Missouri because they share factual questions on the stores’ marketing and sales of DG motor oils deemed obsolete by American Petroleum Institute standards, according to a document from the panel. The other two related actions are pending in the Eastern District of Missouri and the Northern District of New York.

“We find that these actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the Western District of Missouri will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation,” read the document. According to the panel, the plaintiffs in all the actions alleged “similar claims for breach of warranties, unjust enrichment, and violation of various state consumer protection acts.”

The panel said it chose the district because the majority of the litigation actions are pending in the central United States. Additionally, Dollar General is headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, where common documentary and testimonial evidence will be located, the panel claimed.

Plaintiffs in the 18 actions opposed the centralization, arguing that the factual issues are not sufficient or complex enough to justify the decision, and that the litigation mainly involves violation of state-specific laws. The plaintiffs also preferred informal coordination among counsel to centralization.

The panel explained that the plaintiffs would seek out the same evidence from the defendants, third-party witnesses and experts, and that there is certain overlap in the violation of statewide and nationwide laws. “Were this litigation smaller, such duplicative discovery and motion practice might be effectively coordinated on an informal basis by the parties and involved courts,” the panel elaborated.

Allan Kanner of law firm Kanner & Whiteley, one of the attorneys representing plaintiff David Sanchez – who on Dec. 17 filed the initial class action – told Lube Report that this does not change the legal representation of the plaintiffs in the case. “The same lawyers who brought the original 20 cases are currently the only [multidistrict litigation] attorneys,” he said.

“The panel believes that centralization will make things move more cost effectively and faster than other management strategies,” Kanner added. “Ultimately, all plaintiffs want to move this case towards a prompt and just resolution of the very important issues raised in this case.”

Dollar General is represented by attorneys from McGuireWoods LLP, to whom Lube Report reached out but did not receive comments from by deadline.