All things turn out OK sometimes:
Poor Bill Baldwin of Forbes – his Editorial “Needed: Tort Lawyers” in this week’s Forbes – has been printed and reprinted on other lawyer blogs and websites to tout their bona fides as food lawyers. Funny thing, all of them missed this part of Mr. Baldwin’s editorial:
Meet William Marler, a 52-year-old Seattle attorney whose career was launched with a $15.6 million settlement against Jack in the Box. (This victim survived but lost her large intestine.) Sixteen years later he can brag that his firm, Marler Clark, has extracted just shy of half a billion dollars in settlements from food vendors. This suggests cumulative revenues of maybe $150 million for a small firm (seven lawyers, one full-time epidemiologist). But letting lawyers get rich has a nice side effect. The settlements get the attention of food producers. Bill Marler is not shy about using the Web, press releases and Capitol Hill testimony to publicize what he’s doing.
The “newbie” lawyers into food litigation believe that if they put up a few Google ads and post a few blogs, the glitter of it all will attract people poisoned by the food they and their children have eaten to their firms. They then think they can cash in on the victims injuries.
But these “newbie” lawyers are mistaken it is not about the money – victims of foodborne illness today can tell the real from the fake, from the glittery website site and dazzling smile to 21 years of 24/7 365 day advocacy. Those clients, like Heather Wybrew, Carl Ours and Mari Tardiff profiled in the New York Times this Monday in “Health experts say food supply is safer today than a decade ago, but recalls raise new concerns,” understand the differences. They get it. As I said to the New Your Times:
The paradox is that even as food has grown safer, contamination scares and recalls keep coming to light. William Marler, a Seattle lawyer who specializes in representing victims of food-borne illness, said that every time his business appeared to slow from a drop-off in cases, some new type of contamination would crop up.
"It’s like the Dutch boy putting his finger in the dike," Marler said. "When you put your finger in one hole, another emerges."
The clients understand that it is not about the money, the glitz or the glitter – it is about hard work, dedication and caring. Well, time to board the plane to London. I need to put another finger in the dike.
(Actually, Channel 11 in Georgia reported it first). 491 (Actually 501) persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 43 states and Canada. Eight are dead. According to the CDC, patients range in age from <1 to 98 years; 48% are female and 22% reported being hospitalized. Now the New York Times reports:
The processing plant in Georgia that produced peanut butter tainted by salmonella has a history of sanitation lapses and was cited repeatedly in 2006 and 2007 for having dirty surfaces and walls and grease residue and dirt build-up throughout the plant, according to state health inspection reports.
Inspections of the plant in Blakely, Ga., by the state agriculture department found areas of rust that could flake into food, gaps in warehouse doors large enough for rodents to get through, unmarked spray bottles and containers, and numerous violations of other practices designed to prevent food contamination….
A typical entry from an inspection report, dated Aug. 23, 2007, noted: “The food-contact surfaces of re-work kettle in the butter room department were not properly cleaned and sanitized." Additional entries noted: "The food-contact surfaces of the bulk oil roast transfer belt in the mezzazine [sic] room were not properly cleaned and sanitized. The food-contact surfaces of pan without wheels in the blanching department were not properly cleaned and sanitized.”
Criminal Sanctions in the offing in addition to Bankruptcy – I should think so. It will also be interesting to see any inspection reports from 2008. We now have been retained by 36 people throughout the United States unneccesarily poisoned by Salmonella.