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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Kellogg is Pulled into the Salmonella Peanut Butter Pit as the Hartford tries to escape

Had a good talk this evening with Newsday reporter, Sarah Crichton, who I believe might well have been “Miss Peanut Australia” not long ago. We talked about the latest unfortunate episode in the unfolding saga of what amounts to a food safety train wreck.

An outbreak that has sickened over 500 and killed eight now has the “Hartford Casualty Insurance Co…. in court filings … seek[ing] to limit its liability against a likely deluge of lawsuits” against its insured, Peanut Corporation of America. “[This as even] more companies yesterday added products to a recall list that now exceeds 1,100 items – making this outbreak the cause of one of the biggest recalls in U.S. history.” Well, back to my clients’ suit:

Gabrielle and Daryl Meunier, parents of Christopher Meunier, 7, of South Burlington, Vt., last week filed a lawsuit against PCA after the child became ill with a fever, vomiting and diarrhea on Nov. 25. During a five-day hospital stay, tests confirmed the 7-year-old had been infected with Salmonella Typhimurium, the strain later sourced to the Georgia plant. The boy is still recovering. The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia alleges he became ill after eating Kellogg’s Austin peanut butter crackers. Attorney Bill Marler said Kellogg was added as a defendant after it had become clear PCA’s assets and limited insurance coverage of between $28 million to $31 million would be insufficient once all legal action had been launched. "Kellogg also shares liability with PCA because Kellogg is a manufacturer of crackers that have sickened people in this outbreak," said Marler, a Seattle attorney with 15 years of experience in food-borne illness cases.

Now, back to the Declaratory Judgment action – Boy, I sure hope the Hartford Insurance Company and its minions at the Law Firm of Kramon and Graham of Baltimore have a great document retention policy. I hope they are saving all of the documents and emails that support filing such an action against an insured facing Bankruptcy and a criminal investigation. What a great company the Hartford must be – “let’s figure out a way to try and deny over 500 sick people and the families of eight dead fair compensation.”

Since I know the Hartford is an avid reader of my blog – consider this notice.

  • Bix

    I like that, for you, it always comes back to the injured.

  • Awesome – THIS is the power of blogging!
    (@nika7k from twitter)

  • dennis

    concise comments, Mr. Clark– thank you.
    just wondering, what is a reasonable estimate of total Hartford judgement exposure on this? with a company the size of Hartford, it seems it would be a relatively minor concern. thanks.

  • dennis

    my apologies, my question should have been addresed to “Mr. Marler”, not “Mr. Clark”

  • No Free Money

    PCA broke the terms of their insurance policy by committing criminal acts…why should Hartford pay anything, including “Salmonella Lawyer”‘s billable hours?

  • scott

    Just another insurance company trying to pay as little as possible – if they can get away with it.
    Have they (Hartford) filed details of which exclusions/policy terms they are seeking judgement on?
    I’d like to know where I could find that, if you don’t mind.