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Costco lawsuit (re slave labour in Thailand)

In August 2015, a consumer filed a class action lawsuit against Costco and its Thai seafood supplier, CP Foods, in the US alleging that Costco knew of slave labour in its prawn supply chain in Thailand but did not disclose this information to consumers. In January 2016, the court dismissed the case because the plaintiff was unable to prove that the prawns she purchased were from Thailand. A lawsuit that continued on the same grounds with a different plaintiff was also dismissed in January 2017 because the plaintiff could not prove that Costco had an obligation to inform consumers about labour abuses on its packaging.

In August 2015, a consumer filed a class action lawsuit against Costco and its Thai seafood supplier, CP Foods, in a California court.  The plaintiff alleged that Costco knew that some of the prawns it sold were fed with other fish products that were sourced using slave labour and victims of trafficking in Thailand, but did not disclose this to consumers.  Costco had published statements on its website about its efforts to prevent human trafficking in its supply chain, as required by the California Supply Chain Transparency Act.  The Act requires businesses to disclose information about the efforts they are making to eradicate human trafficking and forced labour in their supply chains.  The plaintiff claimed that the statements on Costco’s website were misleading.

Costco argued that the claim was factually incorrect and that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.  The plaintiff claimed she purchased prawns sourced from Thailand, but Costco provided evidence that the prawns were sourced from Vietnam and Indonesia.

On 15 January 2016, the case was dismissed as the plaintiff was unable to prove that she had purchased the affected prawns from Thailand.  The court dismissed Costco’s request to prevent the defendant from “renewing the arguments” and allowed the plaintiff to amend her complaint.  The lawsuit continued with a different plaintiff.  In January 2017, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit because the plaintiffs could not prove that Costco had an obligation to inform consumers about labour abuses in its supply chain on its products’ packaging.  The judge dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice which means that it cannot be brought again.

 

Retail giant Costco wins dismissal of prawn lawsuit over Thai forced labor, Sebastien Malo, Reuters, 25 Jan 2017
- Costco Shrimp Lawsuit Dismissed Because Plaintiff Didn’t Buy Affected Shrimp At Costco, Laura Northrup, Consumerist, 19 Jan 2016

- Costco Sued Over Claims Shrimp Harvested With Slave Labor, Erik Larson, Bloomberg, 19 Aug 2015
- Costco and CP Foods face lawsuit over alleged slavery in prawn supply chain, Felicity Lawrence, Guardian, 19 Aug 2015

CP Foods:
- CP Foods reasserts its strong commitment to human rights and a sustainable supply chain, Kosit Lohawatanakul, CP Foods, 28 Aug 2015

Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP (plaintiffs’ lawyer):
- Costco Taken to Court for Knowingly Selling Slave Labor Shrimp to Unsuspecting Californians, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, 19 Aug 2015
- Class action complaint, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, 18 Aug 2015

- Sud v. Costco. Order on Motions to Dismiss, Jeffrey S White, United States District Judge, 15 Jan 2016

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