BELLEVILLE – Local lawyer David Nelson has sued 21 food and soap makers in St. Clair County circuit court in three years for labeling products as natural.
Most of the unhappy shoppers made their purchases at Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market in Fairview Heights.
One shopper claimed a label tricked her into believing there was nothing unnatural in a non-dairy beverage.
Not one of Nelson’s bids to pursue a consumer class action has succeeded, although he settled a suit on behalf of a putative class.
He and associates in Missouri and Texas collected $245,000 in that settlement, and the putative class didn’t receive a cent.
Many defendants ignore Nelson’s suits, on the record at least.
Many hearings proceed without defense counsel present.
Nelson started the litigation in 2015, suing Irene’s Bakery and Gourmet Kitchen on behalf of Kathleen Hobbs.
She spent $4.99 on Irene’s cookies at Fresh Thyme.
Matthew Armstrong of Brentwood, Mo., also represented her.
Nobody entered an appearance for Irene’s Bakery.
Associate judge Randall Kelley continued the case at two status conferences.
Nelson stipulated to dismissal in 2016, with a copy for a Philadelphia lawyer. Kelley so ordered.
In another case from 2015, Nelson and Armstrong sued Venus Laboratories on behalf of Angela Barnes.
She spent $8.99 on Ecos laundry detergent at Target.
For Venus, Daniel Delaney moved to stay the action pending a class settlement in U.S. district court for Northern California.
Circuit Judge Joseph Lopinot stayed the action until March 30, 2016.
Nelson stipulated to dismissal on March 28, and Lopinot so ordered on April 1.
In another case from 2016, Nelson sued Fairlife Inc., on behalf of Paulette Kremmel.
She spent $2.99 on a high protein milk shake at Fresh Thyme.
Stuart Cochran of Dallas joined Nelson and Armstrong on the case, and the three have stuck together since.
Fairlife retained Patrick Cloud of Heyl Royster in Edwardsville, who removed the suit to U.S. district court.
District Judge Staci Yandle found the removal notice deficient, and remanded the suit to St. Clair County.
It remains open, but no one has filed anything since last September.
In another suit from 2016, Nelson sued Pacific Foods on behalf of Judy Kremmel.
She spent $2.99 on a non-dairy beverage at Fresh Thyme.
Pacific Foods retained Scott Ahmad of Chicago, who removed the suit to U.S. district court.
Last year, Chief District Judge Michael Reagan remanded it to St. Clair County.
He found Pacific Foods failed to prove that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million, the minimum for federal jurisdiction.
The suit returned to Circuit Judge Joseph Lopinot, who continued it three times.
Nelson stipulated to dismissal this Jan. 16, and Lopinot so ordered on Jan. 18.
Nelson filed two suits for shopper Gayle Greenwood in 2016.
In the first one, against Method Products, she spent $2.99 on dish soap at Target.
Jennifer Kingston of Clayton, Mo., entered an appearance for Method Products.
Kingston and Nelson jointly moved to stay the suit so they could discuss it, and Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson granted the motion.
He set a conference that July, but the record doesn’t show he held it.
Nothing further has happened.
In Greenwood’s other suit, against People Against Dirty Manufacturing, she spent $2.99 on dishwashing foam at Target.
No one entered an appearance for People Against Dirty Manufacturing.
In a month, Nelson stipulated to dismissal.
He filed four label suits in a single day on June 15, 2016.
In the first, he sued Andalou Naturals on behalf of Cassandra York.
She spent $9.29 on shampoo at Fresh Thyme.
Nobody entered an appearance for Andalou.
In two months, Armstrong moved to dismiss the suit and Gleeson granted it.
In the second suit that started on the same date, Nelson represented Becca Stroh in a complaint against Kruse Management.
She spent $4.59 on wing sauce at Schnuck’s.
Nobody appeared for Kruse Management, but the record shows a Virginia lawyer advised Nelson that he needed to sue Sky Valley Foods.
Nelson stipulated to dismissal that November, and Gleeson so ordered.
In the third suit that started on the same date, Nelson represented April Dugan in a complaint against Cleanwell Inc.
Dugan spent $6.99 on foaming hand soap at Fresh Thyme.
Nobody entered an appearance for Cleanwell.
Gleeson held two conferences and continued the suit each time.
Nelson stipulated to dismissal last year and provided a copy to Beth Bauer as counsel of record, though she hadn’t entered an appearance.
In the fourth suit that started on the same date, Nelson sued One World Foods on behalf of Larry Wiegand.
He spent $3.85 on marinade at Fresh Thyme.
John Ellis of Chicago appeared for One World Foods and removed the suit to district court.
Wiegand withdrew as plaintiff, and Timothy Blankenship replaced him.
Reagan set trial this October, but in January the parties moved to continue it.
He set it for May 2019.
Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson plans a settlement conference in September.
In another suit from 2016, Nelson sued Citra Solv on behalf of Donna Biffar.
She spent $6.99 on dish detergent at Fresh Thyme.
Robert Bassett and Ross Titzer of St. Louis entered appearances for Cita Solv.
Associate judge Randall Kelley held two conferences and continued the suit.
Nelson stipulated to dismissal two weeks before a third conference, and associate judge Christopher Kolker so ordered.
In another case from 2016, Nelson sued Topco Associates on behalf of April Dugan.
She spent $6.99 on dish detergent at Schnuck’s.
Lawyers from Lewis Rice in St. Louis appeared for Topco and moved to stay the suit until the Food and Drug Administration has defined the word, natural.
Gleeson denied a stay.
The parties settled last June, after Nelson added Katherine Kinsey of Missouri as second plaintiff.
Gleeson approved the settlement for the putative class. Putative means something that exists in thought.
The settlement provided $245,000 to Nelson, Armstrong, and Cochran.
It awarded $2,500 each to Dugan and Kinsey.
Neither the settlement agreement nor Gleeson’s order mentioned relief for consumers, except that Topco pulled the word from their label.
In another case from 2016, Nelson sued Aldi Inc., on behalf of Brett Toenjes.
He spent $1.89 on peanut butter spread.
Aldi retained Crystal Campbell and Elizabeth Blackwell of Thompson Coburn.
Nelson moved to dismiss the suit six weeks later, and Gleeson so ordered.
Nelson filed no labeling suits last year until Aug. 21, when he filed three.
He sued Kensington and Sons on behalf of Jamie Blankenship, who spent $5.95 on mayonnaise at Fresh Thyme.
Nobody entered an appearance for Kensington and Sons.
Nelson stipulated to dismissal in December, and Gleeson so ordered.
In another case that started on the same date, Nelson sued E Partners CWS on behalf of Timothy Blankenship.
He spent $1.99 on citrus flavor drinks at Fresh Thyme.
Nelson stipulated to dismissal in a month, and Gleeson so ordered.
In another case that started on the same date, Nelson sued Cell-Nique Corporation on behalf of Judy Kremmel.
She spent $4.99 on cake mix and $5.79 on frosting at Fresh Thyme.
Nobody entered an appearance for Cell-Nique.
Lopinot held three conferences and continued the suit each time.
He plans a fourth conference on June 11.
In a suit that started last September, Nelson sued Purple Mixer on behalf of Kathleen Harvey.
She spent $4.99 on cookie mix at Fresh Thyme.
Nobody entered an appearance for Purple Mixer.
Lopinot held two conferences, ruling at the second that he would extend deadlines for purposes of settlement.
Nelson stipulated to dismissal in February, and Lopinot so ordered.
In a suit that started last October, Nelson sued Pure Romance on behalf of Danielle Schwartz.
She spent about $24 on shave cream at a home party.
Patric Cloud entered for Pure Romance and moved for transfer to the minor law docket.
He wrote that the cream was no longer for sale and the maximum recovery would be $21,878, the total of Illinois sales.
Kolker held a conference on Jan. 8, and continued the suit to April 16.
This March 8, Nelson filed two label suits against Kraft Heinz.
Plaintiff Angela Schmid spent $2.94 for barbecue sauce at Schnuck’s, and plaintiff Sara Francis spent $3.99 on steak sauce at Dierberg’s.