Liability Laws And Peanut Butter
- FDA searchable database of products
- CDC Web page- Salmonella
- Injuryboard- Regional News, Orlando, Product liability laws, January 25, 2009
- Injuryboard- Regional News, Atlanta, Peanut butter lawsuit, January 24, 2009
- Ed Normand - Wooten, Honeywell, Kimbrough, Gibson, Doherty and Normand, P.A.
IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons
Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) is not an industry giant. The plant in Blakely, Georgia has been shut down and 50 employees are without jobs.
But this small industry had a wide reach of about 200 products, from energy bars to dog biscuits that received PCA's peanut butter and peanut paste. As a result of a massive salmonella recall, linked to the Blakely plant, stores nationwide are pulling products from shelves.
The law firm of Childers & Schlueter of Atlanta reports this past Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed against the Peanut Corporation of America in the U.S. District Court in Georgia.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a family from Vermont.
This Vermont family is alleging their seven year-old boy became sick after eating Keebler Cheese & Peanut Butter Sandwich crackers. The seven year-old spent six days in the hospital for nausea, diarrhea, cramps and blood in his stool. His stool tested positive for salmonella. He contracted the salmonella sickness on November 25, 2008.
If many more lawsuits are filed, they could eventually be consolidated into a class action. Another lawsuit is planned on behalf of a 72-year-old woman in a nursing home who was one of the first of seven people to die from salmonella poisoning linked to eating peanut butter.
Stewart Parnell, president of PCA, said in a statement, "We deeply regret that this product recall has expanded, and our first priority is to protect the health of our customers."
Ed Normand of IB’s Orlando Network reports that lawsuits in these cases generally fall into two areas, negligence and strict liability.
“Negligence claims will require proof that the peanut butter manufacturer, supplier, seller or distributor was breached the appropriate standard of care in the storage, manufacture or transport of the peanut butter that caused the infection from salmonella contained within the peanut butter. Strict liability claims hold everyone in the chain of distribution of the infected peanut butter--manufacturers, suppliers, and even retail sellers of the product (the Walmarts, Publix etc..) for the sale of an unreasonably dangerous product. “
Normand says because the salmonella infection can be unreasonably dangerous, the strict liability product argument is essential to the successful pursuit of a claim of injury or death. Last week, the FDA revealed that salmonella was found in a floor crack near the washroom and on the floor near some pallets.
It was just two years ago in February 2007, that the ConAgra Foods of Omaha, Nebraska, was forced to recall thousands of jars of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter because of salmonella contamination. The product had been shipped all around the country from the ConAgra peanut-processing plant in Sylvester, Ga.
Newsday, the Long Island newspaper reports that since then, the plant has undergone $50 million in remodeling that separates raw peanuts from the finished peanut butter and paste. ConAgra is not named in the current outbreak.
Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who settled more than 1,200 salmonella poisoning cases with ConAgra last year, will travel to PCA’s facility to photograph it in order to determine whether conditions there were similar to those at ConAgra two years ago.
Jean Halloran of Consumers Union says the industry tends to be reactive instead of proactive. The American Peanut Council, located in Virginia, which represented peanut processors says that since 2007, the industry has “redoubled its efforts in reviewing food safety practices.” #