NORTH COUNTRY STORE v. UNITED NATURAL FOODS, INC.

Case No. 1:19-cv-00052-WES-LDA

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. BASIC INFORMATION

  2. Why did I get this Notice?

    You may have paid United Natural Foods, Inc. one or more Fees during the applicable time period, and the parties believe you to be a Class Member.

    The case has been settled, and the Court has ordered that this Notice be provided to you because you have a right to know your options before the Court decides whether to approve the Settlement. If the Court approves the Settlement, an administrator appointed by the Court will make settlement payments to everyone who submitted a valid Claim.

    The Notice explains the lawsuit, the Settlement, your legal rights, what benefits are available, who is eligible for them, and how to get them.

    The Court in charge of the case is the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. The judge in this case is the Chief United States District Judge William E. Smith.

    The Court has approved the Plaintiff’s counsel’s selection of the Settlement Administrator.

  3. What is a class action?

    In a class action, one or more plaintiffs, called “Class Representatives” (in this case, the Plaintiff), sue on behalf of all people and companies that have similar claims. All these other people and companies are “Class Members.” One court resolves the issues for all Class Members, except those who voluntarily exclude themselves from the Class. This case has been certified as a class action solely for purposes of this Settlement. United Natural Foods, Inc. contends that, for any purpose other than the Settlement, these and similar cases are not appropriate for class action treatment.

  4. What is this lawsuit about?

    The lawsuit claims that United Natural Foods, Inc. charged and collected certain “Fees” which were excessive and unlawful. According to Plaintiff, by doing these things, United Natural Foods, Inc. breached the contracts that some of its customers entered into and/or violated state statutory and common law. United Natural Foods, Inc. denies that it did anything wrong and contends that its charging and collection of "Fees" has always been appropriate and proper. The Court has not found that United Natural Foods, Inc. did anything wrong. The Class Action Complaint has more information about the lawsuit and is available here.

    "Plaintiff’s Claims” are described in the Settlement Agreement to mean: any and all claims, actions, causes of action, demands, rights, and suits of whatever kind or nature whatsoever, including without limitation any and all damages, debts, losses, costs, expenses, penalties, attorneys’ fees, expert fees and interest, whether known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, assigned or unassigned, asserted or unasserted, whether as individual claims or claims asserted on a class basis or on behalf of the general public, Plaintiff or any member of the Settlement Class brought or could have brought against Defendant in the Litigation or in any similar case in a court of competent jurisdiction, arising out of, based upon, or related to any of the Fees, including, but not limited to claims (whether based in contract, tort, common law, statute, or any other legal or equitable theory), arising out of or relating to, directly or indirectly, the negotiation, implementation, disclosure, advertisement, maintenance, calculation, assessment, methodology, modification, presentation, representation, suppression, charging, collection and/or payment of the Fees, or which in any way otherwise regard or directly or indirectly relate to any of the Fees.

  5. Why is there a Settlement?

    The Court did not decide in favor of either side. United Natural Foods, Inc. expressly denies any liability or wrongdoing associated with the lawsuit claims. Instead, both sides agreed to a compromise settlement to avoid the cost and risk of continued litigation in multiple venues, including trials and subsequent appeals, and the disruption to United Natural Foods, Inc.’s business operations resulting from protracted litigation. Settlement also ensures that the people and businesses affected will get compensation. In return, United Natural Foods, Inc. gets a general release of all claims which were or could have been asserted in the lawsuit related to the conduct at issue. The Class Representatives and Class Counsel believe the Settlement is in the best interests of everyone affected.

  6. WHO IS IN THE SETTLEMENT

  7. How do I know if I am part of the Settlement?

    The Court has certified a Settlement Class defined as:

    All customers in the United States that paid Defendant one or more of the Fees at any time within the Class Period. Excluded from the Settlement Class are: (1) any individual or entity currently in bankruptcy, (2) any individual or entity whose obligations were discharged in bankruptcy, (3) any judicial officer who has presided over the Litigation, and (4) Whole Foods Market, Inc.”

    At times, a member of the Settlement Class may be referred to as “Settlement Class Member. The term "Defendant" means United Natural Foods, Inc., its parent companies, operating subsidiaries, operating companies, divisions and all affiliated or related entities, and each and all of their respective predecessors, successors, direct and indirect parents and subsidiaries, acquired companies, divisions, related or affiliated entities, and any entity in which any of them have a controlling interest, and for each and every above referenced entity, its respective past, present, and future shareholders, directors, managers, officers, employees, agents, attorneys, insurers, coinsurers, reinsurers, and each and all of their respective successors, predecessors, assigns and legal representatives.

    The term “Class Period” means from November 9, 2012 to April 30, 2020.

    If you received a written Notice regarding the Settlement, then the parties believe that you may be a Member of the Class based upon United Natural Foods, Inc.’s records.

  8. What if I paid the Fees only once?

    You still are a Class Member even if you paid only one invoice with any of the “Fees” during the Class Period.

  9. What if I’m still not sure if I am included?

    If you still are not sure whether you are included in the Settlement as a Class Member, you can get additional information or free assistance by calling the Settlement Administrator appointed by the Court at 1-833-425-0303 or emailing info@FuelSurchargesSettlement.com.

  10. THE SETTLEMENT BENEFITS – WHAT YOU CAN GET

  11. What does the Settlement provide?

    United Natural Foods, Inc. has agreed to establish an all-inclusive Settlement Fund of $1,850,000. This fund will be used to pay Class Members who submit timely and valid Claims, after any Court approved amounts for attorneys’ fees, Class Representative incentive awards, administration costs, and reimbursed litigation expenses are paid from the Settlement Fund. This remaining amount is referred to as the “Net Settlement Fund.”

  12. What can I get from the Settlement?

    If you are a Class Member who submits a timely and valid Claim Form (and does not file a valid and timely opt-out), you will get a settlement check representing a portion of the Fees you paid.

    The portion you receive will be equitably determined on a pro-rata basis by the Settlement Administrator. The total amount of the Fees you paid as a percentage of the total amount of Fees paid by all Class Members who submit timely and valid Claims will determine your percentage share of the Net Settlement Fund. The total amount of your payment will depend on how many other Class Members submit timely and valid Claims.

  13. Will this affect my business relationship with UNFI?

    Whatever option you choose to take based on the Class Settlement and Class Notice will not affect your business relationship with UNFI in any way.

  14. HOW YOU GET A PAYMENT – SUBMITTING A CLAIM FORM

  15. How can I get a payment?

    To qualify for payment, you must send in a Claim Form by no later than 75 days after the Court has entered a Final Approval Order. The claim form is attached as attached to the Notice as Exhibit A and available here. If you choose not to submit your Claim Form online, you must mail a paper claim form to the Settlement Administrator appointed by the Court and postmark by no later than 75 days after the Court has entered a Final Approval Order. To receive a paper copy of the Claim Form or to receive instructions on submitting a paper Claim Form, please contact the Settlement Administrator by phone at 1-833-425-0303 or emailing at info@FuelSurchargesSettlement.com.

  16. What if I have multiple locations?

    Submit only one Claim Form, even if you had multiple locations serviced by United Natural Foods, Inc.

  17. When would I get my payment?

    The Court will hold a hearing on August 10, 2020 at 2:00 pm at the United States District Court, District of Rhode Island, to decide whether to approve the Settlement. If the Court approves the Settlement after that, and if anyone filed an objection, there could be appeals. If there are any appeals, this could delay payment of Claims, possibly for more than a year. Updates will be provided online at www.FuelSurchargesSettlement.com.

  18. EXCLUDING YOURSELF FROM THE SETTLEMENT

  19. How do I request to be excluded from the Class?

    To exclude yourself from the Settlement (“opt-out”), you must send a letter by U.S. mail stating that you want to be excluded from the Settlement Class of “North Country Store v. United Natural Foods, Inc., Case No. 1:19-cv-00052-WES-LDA.” You also must include your name, address, telephone number, and signature.

    You must mail your exclusion request to be delivered no later than July 20, 2020 to each of the following:

    Defendant’s Counsel Plaintiff’s Counsel Settlement Administrator
    R. Eric Bilik
    McGuireWoods LLP
    Bank of America Tower
    50 North Laura Street
    Suite 3300
    Jacksonville, FL 32202-3661
    Oscar M. Price, IV
    Price Armstrong, LLC
    2226 1st Avenue S
    Suite 105
    Birmingham, AL 35233
    UNFI Settlement Administrator
    Class Action Opt-Out
    PO Box 58220
    Philadelphia, PA 19102

    You cannot exclude yourself by phone or by email. If you ask to be excluded, you will not get any settlement payment, and you cannot object to the Settlement. If you timely and appropriately ask to be excluded, you will not be bound by the Settlement and your claims, if any, against United Natural Foods, Inc. will not be released.

  20. If I remain in the Class, what claims are being released?

    Unless you exclude yourself, you are staying in the Settlement Class, and that means that you cannot sue, continue to sue, or be part of any other lawsuit against United Natural Foods, Inc. regarding the claims and subject matter in this lawsuit. It also means that the Settlement Agreement and all of the Court’s orders will legally bind you.

    The complete release language from the Settlement Agreement is as follows: any and all claims, actions, causes of action, demands, rights, and suits of whatever kind or nature whatsoever, including but not limited to Plaintiff’s Claims as defined above, claims for damages, equitable, legal and administrative relief, interests, penalties, fees, costs, debts, demands, losses, liabilities or rights, whether based on federal, state, or local laws, statues or ordinances, regulations, contracts, common law or any other source, known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, whether or not concealed or hidden, assigned or unassigned, asserted or unasserted, whether as individual claims or claims asserted on a class basis or on behalf of the general public, that Plaintiff or any member of the Settlement Class has, had or have against Defendant regarding the Fees, including without limitation, claims for breach of contract, claims for injunctive or declaratory relief, and claims for violation of any state or federal statutes, rules, or regulations, including without limitation any common law or statutory claims for unlawful, unconscionable, unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent business practices or false advertising arising out of, based upon, or related to the facts, transactions, events, occurrences, acts, practices, or omissions that were alleged or could have been alleged in the Litigation or in any similar case in a court of competent jurisdiction, including without limitation, those arising out of or relating to, directly or indirectly, the negotiation, implementation, disclosure, advertisement, maintenance, calculation, assessment, modification, presentation, representation, suppression, charging, collection and/or payment of the Fees, or which in any way otherwise regard or directly or indirectly relate to any of the Fees.

  21. IF YOU DO NOTHING

  22. What happens if I do nothing at all?

    If you do nothing, you will get no money from the Settlement and will release all of your Claims as discussed above.

  23. Do I have a lawyer in this case?

    Yes. The Court has appointed the law firms of Price Armstrong LLC and Enright Law LLC to represent you and other Class Members as Plaintiff’s Class Counsel. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense, but you are not required to do so.

  24. How will the lawyers and Settlement Administrator be paid?

    Under the terms of the Settlement, the appointed lawyers acting as Plaintiff’s Class Counsel can ask the Court for attorneys’ fees up to one-third of the Settlement Fund, and for reimbursement of actual and reasonable litigation expenses they have incurred up to this point. This award is to compensate the two separate law firms for the work they spent in pursuing the class action and the risk they took that no resolution would ever be reached. The appointed lawyers may also seek a payment of up to $15,000 for the Class Representative, to compensate it for its time and effort in bringing these lawsuits.

    All costs of the Settlement Administrator to administer the Settlement and to provide Notice to the Settlement Class will be paid from the Settlement Fund. The Settlement Administrator estimates that the costs of Notice and administration of the Class Settlement will not exceed $100,000, including: the costs of administering the Settlement, all costs of providing Notice to the Settlement Class, all costs associated with creating, administering, maintaining, and hosting the Settlement Website, and all costs of allocation and distribution of funds to the Settlement Class paid out of the Settlement Fund.

    Members of the Settlement Class are not personally liable for any such fees and expenses.

  25. OBJECTING TO THE SETTLEMENT

  26. How do I object to the Court if I don’t like the Settlement?

    If you are a Class Member, you may object to any part of the Settlement you do not like, and the Court will consider your views. You must submit any objection in writing and must provide evidence of your membership in the Class. The procedures for submitting written objections are set out below.

    A written objection (and any support for it) must be filed with the Clerk of Court and received no later than July 20, 2020 (the “Objection Deadline”) by all of the following:

    Defendant’s Counsel Plaintiff’s Counsel Court
    R. Eric Bilik
    McGuireWoods LLP
    Bank of America Tower
    50 North Laura Street
    Suite 3300
    Jacksonville, FL 32202-3661
    Oscar M. Price, IV
    Price Armstrong, LLC
    2226 1st Avenue S
    Suite 105
    Birmingham, AL 35233
    Clerk of Court
    One Exchange Terrace
    Federal Building and Courthouse
    Providence, RI 02903

    If you hire an attorney in connection with making an objection, that attorney must file with the Court and serve on the counsel identified above a notice of appearance. The notice of appearance must be filed with the Court and received by the three addressees above via US Mail or another carrier no later than the Objection Deadline. If you do hire your own attorney, you will be responsible for payment of all fees and expenses that the attorney incurs on your behalf.

    If you want to object, you must file your objection in writing to the Court. Your objection must include:

    1. a caption or title that identifies it as “Objection to Class Settlement in North Country Store v. United Natural Foods, Inc., Case No. 1:19-cv-00052-WES-LDA.”
    2. your full name, signature, title, home and business addresses, home, and business telephone numbers;
    3. a copy of your contract(s), invoice(s) or purchase order(s) with United Natural Foods, Inc. and the date you entered into a contract or purchase order with United Natural Foods, Inc. (or other information sufficient to identify your contract, invoice or purchase order);
    4. a notice of intention to appear, either in person or through an attorney, with the name, address, and telephone number of the attorney, if any, who will appear;
    5. certification that you are a member of the Settlement Class;
    6. a statement of each objection you assert;
    7. a detailed description of the facts underlying and supporting each objection you assert;
    8. a detailed description of the legal authorities, if any, underlying and supporting each objection you assert;
    9. copies of exhibits and/or affidavits, if any, you may offer during the final approval hearing, if any;
    10. a list of all witnesses, if any, you may call to testify at the final approval hearing, along with a summary of each witness’s anticipated testimony; and
    11. the signature, full name, firm name, and business address of all attorneys who have any financial interest in your objection or who represent (or have represented) you in this or matter concerning similar allegations.

    If you make a written objection to the Settlement as set out above, you may request to speak — either in person or through an attorney hired at your own expense — at the Final Fairness Hearing the Court has set, to consider whether to give final approval to the Settlement Agreement. You are not required to attend the Hearing. Lack of attendance at the Final Fairness Hearing will not prevent the Court from considering your objection. If you (or your attorney) intend to speak at the Final Fairness Hearing, you must file with the Court and serve on the parties’ counsel identified above a notice of intent to appear, and your attorney (if you hire one) must file a notice of appearance with the Clerk of Court. Again, the notice of intent to appear must be filed with the Court, and received by the parties’ counsel above, no later than the Objection Deadline.

    If you do not file an objection as described above, you will be deemed to have waived any and all objections to the Settlement, to have consented to the Court’s certification of and jurisdiction over the Settlement Class, and to have released your claims as set out above and defined in the Settlement Agreement (which is available here).


  27. THE COURT’S FAIRNESS HEARING

  28. When and where will the Court decide whether to approve the Settlement?

    The Court will hold a Final Fairness Hearing at 2:00 pm on August 10, 2020 in the United States District Court, District of Rhode Island, One Exchange Terrace, Federal Building and Courthouse, Providence, RI 02903. At this Hearing, the Court will consider whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. You are not required to attend the Hearing, but may do so if you wish. If there are objections that have been submitted in writing in advance of the Hearing, the Court will consider them. The Court will listen to people who have made a prior written request to speak at the Hearing. The Court will also decide whether to pay Class Counsel the amount they are requesting for attorneys’ fees and reimbursement of litigation expenses, as well as Class Representative awards. After the Hearing, the Court will decide whether to grant final approval of the Settlement.

  29. What if the proposed Settlement is not approved?

    If the proposed Settlement is not granted final approval, the Settlement Class that has been preliminarily approved will be decertified, the actions compromising the Litigation will proceed as if the Settlement had not been entered into, and the Settlement shall not be valid or enforceable.

  30. HOW DO I GET MORE INFORMATION

  31. Are there more details about the Settlement?

    This Notice is just a summary, and you are entitled, if you wish, to read the entire Settlement Agreement. The Settlement Agreement and some other documents filed in this lawsuit can be found here.

  32. How do I get more information?

    You can email the Settlement Administrator at info@FuelSurchargesSettlement.com, call 1-833-425-0303 or write:

    UNFI Settlement Administrator
    1650 Arch Street, Suite 2210
    Philadelphia, PA 19103

    Please do not contact the Court or Clerk of Court with any questions regarding this case.