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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Saying your sorry and then doing nothing about it – If you sicken 1,608 people, what should you do?

i-am-sorry.jpgWhen Austin DeCoster, Owner, Wright County Egg and Peter DeCoster, COO, Wright County Egg testified under oath, and Orland Bethel, President, Hillandale Farms of Iowa took the Fifth, at the hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have (with my clients) some time alone with the DeCoster’s and their counsel. Mr. Bethel apparently passed.

It was clear that the DeCosters were sorry for what happened. They were visibly shaken. The elder DeCoster said that he had been praying for the recovery of the over 1,600 (1,608 according to the CDC) victims of the Salmonella Enteritidis Outbreak (isolates with PFGE pattern JEGX01.0004) linked to Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms. At the time the DeCosters seemed sincere – I still believe they are.

Here is a thought; perhaps it is time to put their (or insurance companies) money where their prayers and mouths are?

To date the CDC has identified 1,608 people with the same PFGE pattern (genetic fingerprint) that have been linked to the consumption on Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms eggs. The CDC and the State and Local Health Departments know who these people are. We know that many of them have medical expenses and wage loss that have not been covered by health insurance or sick leave. These folks – clearly not all of the 1,608 – have been harmed for eating an egg, and have had to pay out-of-pocket for that pleasure – Misters DeCosters and Mr. Bethel, that is wrong.

The DeCosters and Mr. Bethel should get their insurance companies to step up now and take care of people with out-of-pocket medical and wage loss expenses.

Sure, anyone who they pay should only be one of the 1,608 identified by the CDC with isolate PFGE pattern JEGX01.0004, who can document egg consumption and wage loss and medical expenses. Of course, the insurance company should get a credit for any money paid against a future settlement or verdict. And, any lawyer (that would include me) must waive fees and costs related to any out-of-pocket payments.

Let’s get the injured people back to square one. Now, that would be an answer to prayer.

  • John Munsell

    There are two kinds of sorrow (being sorry): (1) True repentence, a realization of the intrinsic error driving one’s intentional mistakes. (2) Sorrow because of the personal consequences, that is, being caught and having to face the music. None of us can say which of these two are the motivating factors displayed by the DeCosters.
    As is the case with meat non-inspection, USDA inspectors did NOT inspect the premises, as they were charged to do, nor did they document noncompliances, nor did they force the DeCosters to rectify the obvious insanitary conditions. We expect the USDA to bravely fulfill their responsibilities, which they adroitly avoided at these egg plants. We need a new set of faces at USDA, ones not fearful of uncomfortable enforcement actions against the biggest players in the meat, poultry and egg industries.
    John Munsell

  • I have to say this is all very frightening. We run a company that produces a food wash to prevent salmonella, e.coli and other food borne pathogens from infecting us by washing the foods with our products. Even if consumers did wash their eggs, they are still just as likely to be infected because the pathogens, bacteria and viruses are INSIDE the eggs. This type of infection could be detrimental to the populous if more outbreaks occur.
    Thank you for the blog entry, we have reproduced it and given you credit at our blog.
    Tim