Lawsuits Settled in Connection with Deadly 2011 Listeria Outbreak

The 2011 Listeria outbreak tied to Jensen Farms in southeast Colorado caused 147 illnesses and claimed at least 33 lives.

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

March 19, 2015

2 Min Read
Lawsuits Settled in Connection with Deadly 2011 Listeria Outbreak

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.

About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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