Costco lawsuit (re slave labour in Thailand)

Thai fishing boat

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.  If the attorneys find another consumer/plaintiff who purchased the affected prawns from these suppliers, the case can continue.


- 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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19 January 2016

Costco Shrimp Lawsuit Dismissed Because Plaintiff Didn’t Buy Affected Shrimp At Costco

Author: Laura Northrup, Consumerist

Disgusted at reports that some shrimp sold in the United States may have been caught by people working under slavery-like conditions, a woman in California filed a class-action lawsuit against Costco, the store where she purchased her shrimp.  The problem: Costco, as a members-only warehouse, knows exactly what she has purchased, and says she didn’t actually buy any of the affected shrimp.  The lawsuit claimed that the plaintiff and her mother purchased prawns that came from two specific suppliers based in Thailand. Disturbing recent news reports have exposed the treatment of workers in the seafood industry in that country, who are recruited from poorer Asian countries and forced to work long hours under slavery-like conditions.  The problem is that there’s no proof that the lead plaintiff bought any affected seafood.  She may have, but Costco’s records for her account and for her mother’s don’t show that she purchased that shrimp...The case has been dismissed, but if the attorneys can find a different plaintiff who actually purchased Thai farmed shrimp from those suppliers, it can continue.

Read the full post here