MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Thursday that her office is filing a lawsuit against Family Dollar and its parent company Dollar Tree over violations at a West Memphis warehouse.
The Attorney General said the company “knowingly endangered consumers by storing and distributing food, medicine, and other goods in a rat-infested West Memphis distribution facility.”
Rutledge tweeted: "Despite warnings from the FDA & @ADHPIO, @myfamilydollar continued to store & distribute consumer goods in unsanitary conditions infested with live & dead rodents, feces & urine, dead birds & droppings. Conditions dangerously impact the health of those that consumed the products.
All 85 Arkansas stores were impacted by the contamination and recall, leading Arkansans to spend millions of dollars on products that were potentially contaminated by the infestation & health hazards of the facility.
That is why my office is seeking punitive damages, restitution, and civil penalties on behalf of Arkansans impacted by the unconscionable business practices of @myfamilydollar."
On Friday, Feb. 18, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that more than 1,000 rodents were found inside the Family Dollar distribution facility in West Memphis. The chain issued a voluntary recall that impacted over 400 stores in the South.
Later, ABC24 learned inspection reports showed same facility had violations related to rat infestations going back to January 2021, over a year before the mass infestation was announced and several stores closed.
According to the lawsuit, state and federal inspections show Family Dollar had known of the rodent infestation at its facility since at least January 2020.
Arkansas' lawsuit seeks up to $10,000 for each violation of the state's deceptive trade practices act that's proven at trial, punitive damages and restitution for all consumers affected by the contamination. In her lawsuit, Rutledge also asks a state judge to suspend or revoke Family Dollar's authorization to do business in the state.
In a statement, the FDA said it was "urging caution around any items purchased since Jan. 1, 2021, at Family Dollar stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, or Tennessee."
Products affected included human food, pet food, dietary supplements, cosmetics, medical devices and over-the-counter medications that were purchased in January or February from Family Dollar stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri or Tennessee.
Family Dollar said in early March, they were gradually reopening doors but didn't release a full timeline on when customers can expect their neighborhood store to reopen.