(b) The message of the website was that the CPVF had determined that the class action was bad for franchisees and the
implication was that anyone who did not opt out (and who
would be readily identifiable as a non-conformist) was damaging the business, harming other franchisees and undermining the efforts of the CFC.
(c) The message that the class action would “create walls”
between the franchisees and the franchisor was designed to
enhance the position of the Executive as the sole voice of Pet
Valu franchisees and to exploit franchisees’ concerns about
the power imbalance between themselves and the franchisor. It in fact runs contrary to McNeely’s evidence, discussed
below, that Pet Valu intended to treat all its franchisees
fairly and equally, regardless of their participation in the
(d) There was no attempt to provide any form of informational
balance or to discuss the issues in the class action — the
fact that, if the action was successful, every class member
might have a right to substantial damages, was not even
(e) The website disparaged class counsel — references were
made to lawyers “creating walls”, receiving “25% if not
more” out of any settlement or judgment and referred to
them as “lawyers who seek to assert claims focused upon
allegations of past misconduct”. The message was: “This is
all driven by class action lawyers trying to make money”.
(f) The suggestion that the lawsuit was motivated by a “desire
to punish” the former owners has no factual basis. The liability of Pet Valu in this action is a corporate liability, which
is obviously distinct from the ownership of the corporation.
(g) The suggestion that the issue of volume rebates could be
addressed by the CFC is contrary to the evidence on certification that the CFC had been either unable or unwilling to
do so. There is no evidence at all that Pet Valu as a corporation, under new management or otherwise, is prepared to
address this issue voluntarily and without being required to
do so as a result of this action.
(h) The alleged consequences of the class action, including its
impact on franchisee profitability, its effect on Pet Valu and
its effect on the brand, were exaggerated and lacked any
factual or evidentiary foundation.