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Arkansas AG files suit against Family Dollar over rat infestation

LITTLE ROCK – State authorities have launched a lawsuit against Family Dollar, which operates stores in Mena as well as numerous other locations throughout Arkansas and the region.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced the filing of the lawsuit on April 28. The lawsuit takes aim at the popular dollar store chain for selling potentially harmful or contaminated products following a massive rodent infestation at its West Memphis distribution center. The incident came to light in February and forced the company to close hundreds of stores and recall dozens of products.

The complaint alleges that Family Dollar was aware of the rodent infestation for years but disregarded concerns despite the danger to public safety and the unsafe working conditions at its distribution center. The lawsuit seeks punitive damages, restitution and civil penalties. 

Rutledge said the company took advantage of the reliance Arkansans have on Family Dollar when it failed to address the infestation.

“In many rural communities in Arkansas, families rely on discount stores like Family Dollar for essential products such as food, medicine or pet food,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “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.”

Reports from state and federal health inspectors show that Family Dollar had knowledge of its rodent infestation since at least January 2020. In March 2021, the Arkansas Department of Health inspected the West Memphis Distribution Center where inspectors reported seeing “significant rodent activity where human food and pet food were stored” and management stated that they were aware of the rodent issues. In April 2021, state health inspectors reported that effective measures were not being taken to stop the rodent infestation. Following notices from the Arkansas Department of Health and consumer complaints, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an investigation in January 2022 of the West Memphis Distribution Center.

In March 2022 the FDA issued a safety alert regarding the Distribution center, which stated in part:

“Conditions observed during the inspection included live rodents, dead rodents in various states of decay, rodent feces and urine, evidence of gnawing, nesting and rodent odors throughout the facility, dead birds and bird droppings, and products stored in conditions that did not protect against contamination. More than 1,100 dead rodents were recovered from the facility following a fumigation at the facility in January 2022. Additionally, a review of the company’s internal records also indicated the collection of more than 2,300 rodents between Mar. 29 [2021] and Sep. 17, 2021, demonstrating a history of infestation.”

These contaminated products included human foods, animal foods, cosmetics, medical devices, and over-the-counter medications for both adults and children. Following the FDA’s investigation announcement, Family Dollar issued a “voluntary recall” and was forced to temporarily close 404 stores, including 85 Arkansas stores, so that hazardous and contaminated products could be removed from its shelves. 

Rutledge filed the lawsuit in the Pulaski County Circuit Court.  Each violation is subject to a fine of up to $10,000.

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