Brian White at has written an interesting post about the Wal-Mart sued in Indiana over the salmonella outbreak. Brian writes:

When someone sues Wal-Mart these days, it usually doesn’t even make headlines anywhere. This is a tad bit different, as a Greenwood, Indiana family is suing the global retailer for damages after a boy in the family had to be hospitalized after eating a ham and cheese sandwich from the Greenwood Wal-Mart store.

It appears from initial reports that health officials traced the salmonella outbreak to the deli and bakery sections of this specific Wal-Mart. Over 84 people from the communities of Marion and Johnson counties in Indiana were made sick from eating food from this Wal-Mart, which begs the following question.

Should Wal-Mart be held liable for food poisoning outbreaks that cause “personal injury” to customers of its stores? It depends on how you look at it, but I completely agree in this case that Wal-Mart should be liable. But how about pre-packaged food goods that Wal-Mart basically sells but does not “produce”? Does the liability then rest with the original provider or with the seller (Wal-Mart in this case)?

If the food is “prepared” in a Wal-Mart store, the company legally has responsibility if anyone gets sick. But then, we have to define “prepared”. Slicing ham from a pre-cooked slab in the deli — for example — is preparing it for sale. Does Wal-Mart remain responsible here? Since temperature and handling play a part, I definitely think so. Not that Wal-Mart the company is hurt very much by food poisoning lawsuits, but the negative perception can become more of a black eye — something that WMT shareholders need to see less of.