March 19, 2015
A number of lawsuits that were filed in the wake of a deadly Listeria outbreak linked to contaminated cantaloupes have been settled.
Bill Marler, a prominent food-safety lawyer whose Seattle-based firm Marler Clark represented the families of 46 victims, announced the settlement last week. Financial terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.
The 2011 Listeria outbreak tied to Jensen Farms in southeast Colorado caused 147 illnesses and claimed at least 33 lives and one miscarriage.
Marler Clark filed the complaints against multiple defendants in 12 states, on behalf of the families of 46 people, including 29 victims who died. To date, total past medical expenses have exceeded $15 million, Marler wrote on his blog announcing the settlement.
Jensen Farms declared bankruptcy in 2012, and nearly $4 million in insurance proceeds was distributed to victims and their families to settle litigation filed against the farm and two other companies involved in one of the largest outbreaks of listeriosis in U.S. history.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that several factors could have contributed to the outbreak, including failure to wash the cantaloupes with a chlorine solution.
Last year, a federal prosecutor characterized the outbreak as an “American tragedy" and said the fourth-generation farmers who ran the business didn’t mean any harm. In January 2014, a judge in Denver sentenced Eric Jensen and his sibling Ryan to five years of probation and ordered each of them to pay $150,000 in restitution, 100 hours of community service and six months of home detention.
Prior to the sentencing, families of the victims who addressed U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty were split on whether the brothers should spend time behind bars.
The outbreak was illustrative of the immense toll that foodborne illness can exert on victims and their families.
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