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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Counting the Days to this E. coli Trial

If ever there is a case to slap down “Big Beef” this is it.  This article is a must read to learn just how far a corporation will go to deny responsibility for sickening dozens and killing a woman by putting E. coli O157:H7 out into the stream of commerce and then blaming the victims.  Corporations simply have no souls.  Instead of suing a church, the Board of Directors needs to go to church.  In Sunday’s New York Times, Andrew Martin writes:

"Out of a Church Kitchen and Into the Courts"

The Outbreak:

Nebraska Beef has been accused of making people at a church social very sick; one elderly woman died. Meatballs served at a smorgasbord of the Salem Lutheran Church in Longville, Minn., were tainted with deadly E. coli bacteria, and Nebraska Beef was named as the culprit in lawsuits filed by the dead woman’s husband and by Ellie Wheeler, one of 17 other people who became ill.

The Victims:

Ellie Wheeler, one of those at a church social who became ill, is suing Nebraska Beef. The company is suing her church.

Carolyn Hawkinson died after eating meatballs at Salem Lutheran Church in Longville, Minn.

The Defense:

But Nebraska Beef, based in Omaha, is pursuing a very different tactic.

For starters, the company has denied that it is responsible for providing bad meat, and it has provided a culprit of its own. It blames the Salem Lutheran Church — contending in its own lawsuit that the volunteer church ladies who prepared the food were negligent.

Nebraska Beef’s lawyers are even preparing to depose the minister.

Our thoughts:

Denis W. Stearns, a Seattle lawyer who represents Mr. Hawkinson and Ms. Wheeler, said it was unusual but not unprecedented for a meat company to sue the victims. His colleague, Bill Marler, is less diplomatic, calling Nebraska Beef’s lawsuit “one of the boldest, yet boneheaded, moves I have ever seen."

Perhaps my best quote ever.

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