Although it has been a long time coming, with much work done to get here, but today we finally received the court’s ruling on class certification, and the ruling was in our favor. The court granted our motion that asked it to certify what is called a “liability only” class action. This means that, for purpose of determining whether Townsend Farms and Costco are liable for damages caused by consumption of the contaminated berries, that question will be determined on behalf of the both the named plaintiffs and all class members. Technically, the court certified a sub-class for each of the nine states with a class representative, and it could be that there is a trial for each subclass. More likely, there will be a single trial with the jury answering separate verdict questions for each state. The question of damages would then be decided in a second phase of trial. Certification Order
THE COSTCO HEPATITIS A OUTBREAK
According to the CDC, as of September 15, 2014, 165 people had been confirmed to have become ill from hepatitis A after eating ‘Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend’ in 10 states: Arizona (24), California (80), Colorado (29), Hawaii (8), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (11), Nevada (6), Utah (3), and Wisconsin (2). Six of the confirmed cases were household contacts of confirmed cases (secondary cases). The Townsend Farms Berries were sold at Costco.
- 91 (55%) ill people were women
- Ages range from 1 – 84 years
- 95 (57%) of those ill were between 40 – 64 years of age.
- 11 children age 18 or under were also ill.
- Illness onset dates range from 3/31/2013 – 8/12/2013
- 69 (42%) ill people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported
- All ill people who reported eating this product purchased it from Costco markets
The major outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus, belonging to genotype 1B, was found in clinical specimens of 107 people in eight states: AZ, CA, CO, HI, NH, NM, NV, and WI. This genotype is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East.
By combining information gained from FDA’s traceback and traceforward investigations and the CDC’s epidemiological investigation, FDA and CDC have determined that the most likely vehicle for the hepatitis A virus appears to be a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from a company in Turkey, Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading. Purely Pomegranate, Fallon Trading and United Juice imported the seeds into the United Sates.
These pomegranate seeds were used by Townsend Farms to make the Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blends. On June 4, 2013, Townsend Farms voluntarily recalled certain lots of its frozen Organic Antioxidant Blend because of potential hepatitis A virus contamination. On June 28, 2013, Townsend Farms expanded the recall because of potential hepatitis A virus contamination.