History of Salmonella Litigation
Everyone must eat. It is a matter of public convenience, and of public trust, that a person can buy food prepared by another. The public trusts food preparers. Without that trust, we don’t have a viable society in the sense we are accustomed to. So, persons who don’t learn the responsibility of food safety, or who shirk it, are dangerous. They are dangerous to those individuals whom they allow to become infected, and they are dangerous to society as a whole, because they eat away at the public trust that binds us together. That is why courts, both civil and criminal, are involved in providing justice for victims of salmonellosis.
Pregnant Mother, Science-Based Defense, Strong Counterargument by Plaintiff
In a recent case in Allegheny County, Pa., a woman plaintiff, 7 months pregnant, claimed eating tainted chicken-fried rice at the defendant’s restaurant caused her salmonella infection. She claimed severe emotional distress over the thought of her infection harming her unborn child. The defendant had tests run on his restaurant’s leftover chicken-fried rice from the day in question, and no salmonella was found, so the defendant denied liability. However, the plaintiff’s expert on food contamination testified that despite the negative test results, the batch of chicken-fried rice prepared that day could have been heated unevenly, allowing salmonella to exist in one part of the fried-rice buffet pan and not in others.
In April 2012, after salmonella ingested from a meal at fried-chicken giant KFC infected her, 14-year-old Monika Samaan fell into a coma. Six months later, conscious again, she discovered she could not walk, and she could not talk.
Jurors in this case awarded a colossally large money verdict, more than $8.2 million, not only because of the unspeakable harm done to Monica Samaan, but also because of the egregious ignoring by KFC of food-safety standards. KFC has been in the food business for decades, making basically a single dish – chicken – and has had the opportunity and experience in training thousands of managers to train hundreds of thousands of employees in the safe preparation of chicken. KFC could not hide these facts. Jurors concluded KFC simply didn’t care enough about food safety to protect the public, and this cavalier, devil-may-care attitude on the part of a giant corporation serving millions of people angered them.
In 2009, the grieving son of fatally poisoned Nellie Napier pointed out there is widespread non-compliance with regulations to protect people against salmonella. Randy Napier said,
“There are other companies responsible for other outbreaks too. We need to send a message that this can’t and won’t be tolerated anymore. I don’t want to see anybody else go through what we had to go through.”
S. Typhimurium was recovered from a container of peanut butter served to Ms. Nellie Napier at a nursing home. Tests showed it was a genetic match to more than 700 illnesses nationwide linked to peanuts from Peanut Corporation of America.
Stemming from the civil suit Napier v. Kanan Enterprises noted above, a watershed criminal case is under way in summer 2014 against officials of Peanut Corporation of America, whose products, in numerous prior civil suits, were proved to have infected hundreds of people with S. Typhimurium.
In 2010, ConAgra recalled 100 percent of its extant Marie Callender’s brand Cheesy Chicken and Rice frozen meals. The federal Centers for Disease Control found 29 people in 14 states diagnosed with salmonellosis from Salmonella serotype Chester traced to Con Agra facilities.
In 2007, the CDC found 290 people in 39 states with salmonellosis traced to peanut butter produced by Con Agra. Forty-six hospitalizations were necessary.
Cargill: Massive Turkey Recall
In 2011, food-processing giant Cargill was forced to mount the second largest food recall in U.S. history – 36 million pounds of ground turkey – for contamination with S. Heidelberg that was linked to 136 salmonella infections, including one death, in 34 states.
Caterer Denies Liability, Says Tainted Food Was “Not Under Our Control” At Party
In Los Angeles County in 1998, a group of 19 plaintiffs was awarded $431,000 by a jury that found Jerry's Famous Deli in Studio City catered them contaminated turkey dishes, which sickened them with salmonella. Jerry’s is a chain of delicatessens.
Defense attorneys argued that once the catered turkey left the restaurant, the food was no longer Jerry’s responsibility. A plaintiff’s attorney said that was like a restaurant saying that once you have takeout, you're on your own and they're not responsible for poisoning you.
Company officials downplayed the poisoning, saying that throughout the chain, Jerry’s restaurants sell thousands of pounds of turkey every week, doing the same thing day in and day out, with no problems, and that 20 million meals served over the past 10 years spoke for itself.
Of course, although the suit was brought against Jerry’s parent company, the infections came only from Jerry’s Studio City, which had a much smaller volume to boast of.