china_flag.jpgIt was reported this week that Daxing District People’s Court of China convicted Zhao Lianhai for disturbing the social order during the tainted-milk scandal in 2008, sentencing him to two-and-a-half years in prison. Zhao’s own four-year-old son became sick after consuming milk-containing melamine, which is used in plastics and fertilizer production.  In 2008, melamine-tainted milk from China was blamed for the deaths of six infants and the sickening of hundreds of thousands.  Zhao organized a website, “Kidney Stone Babies,” and established a support group, furnishing information and resources to parents whose children were sickened or killed by melamine-tainted milk.  For that Zhao has been jailed.

I met with Zhao’s lawyers in China once.

Putting aside jailing lawyers for a moment, what are your thoughts on jailing these folks or their surviving families or denying them access to the courts for compensation for their injuries or deaths?

Charles Palmer consumed the Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe in mid-August. He had purchased one whole cantaloupe at the Wal-Mart store located on Razorback Road in Colorado Springs several days before. He fell ill with symptoms of listeriosis, the illness caused by Listeria infection, including headache and fatigue, on August 30. The next morning, Mr. Palmer’s wife found him unresponsive and immediately rushed her husband to the hospital, where he has remained ever since.

89-year-old Marie Jones regularly purchased and consumed cantaloupe in the weeks prior to her illness. By the weekend of September 10, Ms. Jones developed signs of a Listeria infection, including a severe headache and gastrointestinal symptoms, which worsened over the ensuing days. Late on September 12, she was admitted to Baylor University Medical Center and transferred to the intensive care unit where it was determined that her illness was caused by a Listeria infection and was affecting her entire body. Over the next ten days Ms. Jones’ condition worsened until she ultimately succumbed to her illness on September 23.

Herbert Stevens and his wife purchased Jensen Farms-grown Rocky Ford cantaloupe from a Littleton grocery store in early August. On August 24, 84-year-old Mr. Stevens fell ill with symptoms of listeriosis and became incapacitated. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he tested positive for the same strain of Listeria that is involved in the cantaloupe Listeria outbreak. Mr. Stevens remained hospitalized until he was transferred to a long-term care facility. It is not clear if he will be able to return home.

68-year-old Doyle Underwood of Smithville, Oklahoma consumed cantaloupe on multiple occasions in August 2011. By September 2, he had begun to develop symptoms of a Listeria infection including fatigue, muscle aches, and mental status changes. For the next three days Mr. Underwood’s condition continued to worsen until he was hospitalized with listeriosis, the illness brought on by Listeria, on September 5.  He was released on October 3.

Juanita Gomez consumed cantaloupe purchased from a local grocery store in early August. By August 20, Mrs. Gomez became ill and developed a fever. When her symptoms progressed, she was taken to the hospital where her temperature measured 105.6 degrees F, her eyes became glassy, and she was unable to respond to simple questions.  Mrs. Gomez was released from the hospital on August 24 and continues to recover at her home.

92-year-old Paul Schwarz of Kansas City consumed cantaloupe produced by Jensen Farms multiple times in the month of August. On September 15, he was treated and released from the hospital after experiencing symptoms of Listeria infection, including abdominal pain. His condition worsened, and Mr. Schwarz was readmitted to the hospital on September 19, where he tested positive for Listeria.  Mr. Schwarz remains in the hospital.

William Beach consumed cantaloupe produced and distributed by the defendants in early August. Mr. Beach subsequently fell and on approximately August 28th, was taken to the hospital by ambulance after his wife, Monette, found him collapsed on the living room floor, unable to speak or breathe regularly. Mr. Beach was discharged from the hospital two days later, but his condition worsened and he was again rushed to the hospital, where he died after a failed intubation procedure.

Clarence Wells consumed cantaloupe on multiple occasions before becoming ill with symptoms of Listeria infection, including fluid retention, on August 23, 2011. By August 25, Mr. Wells had gained 9 pounds and had begun having difficulty breathing. He was taken to the emergency room, and was admitted to John’s Hopkins Medical Center later that day. On the morning of August 31, Mr. Wells’ condition deteriorated and his family was called to the hospital, where they found him unconscious. They never spoke to him, or saw him awake, again. Mr. Wells died the evening of August 31, 2011.

Damn, consumers, lawsuits and lawyers!  I bet you are ready to take that first boat to Shanghai or the first plane to Beijing.