Header graphic for print
Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Cornering the food litigation market

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to Dick Dahl from Lawyers Weekly.  His interesting story (if your my mother) can be found on line in an article entitled – “Cornering the Food Litigation Market”  A few of the best points follow:

How did the little firm from Puget Sound become THE law firm for plaintiffs in the spinach litigation?

Managing partner William Marler of Marler Clark told Lawyers USA that the answer, in one respect, is simple: They were already in position to be that firm.  “This is what we do,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of our work is food cases from all over the country.”

Food litigation expertise

Marler had been handling high-profile food litigation for several years prior to 1998. In 1993, he was a senior associate in a mid-sized Seattle litigation firm when the Jack in the Box restaurant food-contamination case broke. He represented children who suffered severe kidney failure from eating Jack in the Box meat tainted with E. coli bacteria, and secured a series of settlements in the $3- to $5-million range, along with one for $15.6 million.

He joined a different firm where he handled another high-profile E. coli case representing children who were injured after drinking bottled Odwalla unpasteurized apple juice.

When those cases wound down, Marler decided that he wanted to form his own firm and contacted two former nemeses, Jack in the Box chief counsel Bruce Clark and his associate Denis Stearns, and asked if they were interested in started a firm that focused on food-related injury. They said yes, and Marler Clark was born.

The Boy Scout

In addition to the firm’s myriad websites and blogs, Marler created yet another enterprise that provides additional marketing benefits: a nonprofit consulting company called OutBreak, Inc.  The purpose of OutBreak is “to teach companies why it’s a bad idea to poison people,” said Marler.  Lawyers from the firm give free presentations to companies, focusing on how to prevent liability for food-borne illnesses.
“I show them what happens during the course of litigation,” continued Marler. “I show them documents that I’ve uncovered during the course of litigation that are very embarrassing. I show them how we’ve worked very closely with the U.S. Attorney’s office [to get] criminal sanctions. And I show how some companies go bankrupt because of what happens in litigation.”

“There’s a lot of Boy Scout in me,” Marler said.