Prolific Plaintiff’s Lawyer Held in Contempt
Friday, December 8, 2023
  • Spencer Sheehan is an extraordinarily prolific plaintiff’s lawyer who works primarily in the food space. By his own count, he filed 440 class actions between 2020 and spring 2023. He monopolized the field of filing lawsuits against vanilla flavored products for a period, and was the subject of an NPR profile featuring his suit against Strawberry Pop-Tarts (alleging that they were mostly apple and pear) as well as other high-profile articles.
  • As one judge in the Northern District of Illinois put it in May, Sheehan has a habit of pushing the same legal theories “time and again, in case after case, without much success.” The judge admonished Sheehan that his “losing streak should tell you something” and ordered him to file a spreadsheet showing every case he had filed based on a similar legal theory since 2020. Finally, noting the significant amounts of attorney’s fees Sheehan had caused companies to run up with his frivolous filings, the judge ordered Sheehan to show cause why he should not have to pay the defendant’s legal fees. The court has not taken any further action in the case since.
  • Instead, in July, the Northern District of New York noted frivolous cases filed by Sheehan in that district, in addition to two admonitions directed at him by judges in the Southern District of New York concerning the same conduct. In addition to the court’s allegations, Sheehan also had to face an amicus filing by another company he had targeted. According to that filing, Sheehan had responded to the company’s threats of a sanctions motion by saying, “So go file your rule 11 motion I hear such sanctions threats from people like you all day long.” The court issued its order holding him in contempt last week, but reserved decision on the nature of the final sanctions Sheehan will face.

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