LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) — Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced a new lawsuit against national retailer Family Dollar on Thursday, claiming the company engaged in deceptive practices and activities that put customers at risk.
In the suit, Rutledge claims the value retail chain operator used “reckless, willful, intentional, deceptive, and unconscionable practices of marketing, distributing, and selling to Arkansas consumers products which were potentially hazardous, adulterated, or contaminated.”
The majority of the allegations in the suit are centered on complaints at the company’s distribution center in West Memphis, which was temporally shut down earlier this year after repeated violations found during inspections by the Arkansas Department of Health.
Those inspections led to an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which then issued a safety alert warning that conditions in the West Memphis center — where there was evidence of live and dead rodents, rodent waste, rodent nesting and dead birds and bird droppings — could lead to contamination in products.
That FDA safety alert was followed by an advisory from the agency for consumers in six states, including Arkansas, to throw away products purchased at Family Dollar stores. The company had already issued a voluntary recall and temporarily closed more than 400 stores to clear out potentially contaminated products.
The attorney general is suing the company under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practice Act (ADTPA), claiming that as the West Memphis facility was seeing these failing inspections, Family Dollar was still making great profits while “knowingly exposing Arkansas consumers to potentially hazardous or contaminated products.”
“In many rural communities in Arkansas, families rely on discount stores like Family Dollar for essential products such as food, medicine or pet food,” the attorney general said in a release. “Family Dollar has had knowledge of this dangerous and massive rodent infestation for over two years, yet they continued to sell and profit from potentially contaminated goods. Consumers lost money and could have lost their lives.”
Rutledge is asking that Family Dollar face a number of penalties, including restitution to shoppers, $10,000 fines for each violation of the ADTPA and a possible suspension of the company’s business license to operate in Arkansas.