On May 03, By John O’Brien of the Charleston Bureau reported on the status of bankrupt Coronet Foods, Inc. and its attempts to stave off liability in several lawsuits claiming tomatoes supplied by Coronet to Sheetz contained salmonella bacteria.
From the article:
“I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind that the tomatoes were contaminated when they were received by Coronet. It’s just a matter of trying to track down which one of the suppliers it was,” said Coronet’s lawyer Eric Anderson, of the law firm Meyer, Darrah, Buckler, Bebenek and Eck.
Anderson admits that representing a company that has gone bankrupt is difficult, but he is confident that the insurance companies that covered Coronet will not have to pay settlements on the coming wave of Sheetz litigation. Seattle attorney William Marler says 148 cases will soon be filed in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Maryland.
Coronet received Roma tomatoes from two different suppliers, Consumer Produce and Procacci Brothers, and it will be up to the FDA to determine which supplier caused the salmonella outbreak, Anderson said.
Though, he admits, there are no smoking guns available – or rotten tomatoes left over- when it comes to food-born illnesses.
“One of the problems with food-born illness is the case is generally determined after an outbreak of illness related to food,” Anderson said. “All the food is gone then. We don’t have a direct line or smoking-gun evidence.”
What isn’t available, Anderson added, is proof positive.
“(Marler) has to prove that his clients fell ill from a product that came from Sheetz,” he said. “Right now, there isn’t any evidence with a situation where a client bought a sandwich containing tomatoes, got sick and had the rest of the sandwich sent to be tested for salmonella.
“That’s the burden he has to get over before he establishes liability.”
Anderson cited U.S. Air as a positive example of a company that filed for bankruptcy to protect itself against creditors, then was able to sustain operation in order to come up with a plan to pay them.
Coronet, he said, wasn’t so fortunate.
“There is insurance to cover some of these lawsuits,” he said. “It wasn’t Coronet’s fault. There was a chain of distribution, and Coronet got supposedly bad tomatoes.”