The retailer had asked U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco dismiss the case, which was filed on behalf of consumers by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The judge denied the dismissal request, saying in his order “numerous California cases” have recognized that a seller’s duties can extend beyond the point of sale.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest wants the judge to approve class action status for the food safety case, which would mean it would include thousands of plaintiffs instead of just the two individuals named in the original complaint, filed in February 2011.
Recalls related to fresh eggs and a variety of products made with peanut butter spurred the case against the Pleasanton, Calif.-based retailer, which has more than 1,700 stores. The plaintiffs contend Safeway should have used their loyalty card contact information to notify them when the products were recalled.
Even though the case does not involve consumers who bought fresh produce, the outcome could affect all suppliers who work with Safeway, as well as the retailer itself.
The complaint states repeatedly that forcing Safeway to use loyalty card information to notify customers by phone, mail and e-mail “will cost Safeway nothing because Safeway’s suppliers agree to reimburse all costs associated with notice and refunds” in recall situations.
Safeway’s legal team has until Aug. 15 to file its oppositions to the request for class action status. The parties are scheduled in January 2015 to argue the question of whether the case will be a class action or move forward with only two plaintiffs.