Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Butterball Turkeys Found Indispensable Parties to "Turkeygate" Lawsuit

An Anchorage-based attorney has sued Carrs-Safeway, alleging violations of consumer protection laws. According to the Alaska Dispatch News, plaintiff Tim Cook claims the popular grocery chain sold him two underweight frozen turkeys around Thanksgiving, and seeks damages as well as a $50,000 donation to the Food Bank of Alaska or similar nonprofit.

In what is likely the first ever poultry-based test of Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 19 regarding the joinder of indispensable parties, the Anchorage District Court made a sua sponte ruling on Wednesday that the two turkeys at issue were necessary participants in the litigation, and the action could not proceed without their presence at trial.

The court’s order cited the complaint’s allegations that “turkeys do not gain weight when they are frozen.” Accordingly, the court reasoned, absent the turkeys being served with process (and also a side of garlic mashed potatoes), “complete relief cannot be accorded among those already parties,” as required by Civil Rule 19(a).

Plaintiff moved for reconsideration, arguing both turkeys had already been stuffed and consumed months ago, both as a main course and as leftover sandwiches, thereby making joinder “not feasible” under Rule 19(b). 

Defendants cross-claimed that turkeys are not “persons” contemplated by the rule, and that it’s called “personal jurisdiction,” not “poultry jurisdiction,” for heaven’s sake. 

Both parties argued the court’s ruling was a slippery slope doused in gravy: By the court's logic, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and even green bean casserole could all be considered necessary parties to future Thanksgiving-dinner based claims, leading to a cornucopia of confusing albeit delicious remedies.

The named parties plan to file interlocutory cross-petitions for review to the Alaska Supreme Court regarding the pretrial ruling. The two frozen/allegedly already-digested turkeys could not be reached for comment.

This is a developing story. Please check back for savory updates.

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