A Holly, Colorado, melon grower went out of business following a deadly outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes in 2011. Jensen Farms went bankrupt after contaminated Rocky Ford cantaloupes grown by the company killed 36 people and injured dozens more across the country.
An 81-year-old Colorado man died within days of ingesting a contaminated cantaloupe purchased at a Chadron Wal-Mart. The Cody man’s widow named Wal-Mart, cantaloupe distributors, fruit safety inspectors and others as defendants in a recently-filed wrongful death lawsuit.
The civil action was filed after the Jensen Farms bankruptcy failed to compensate 64 victims adequately for a court-estimated $45 million in damages. The plaintiff’s legal advisers said additional lawsuits were necessary against businesses associated with food safety negligence.
Any business that handled the fruit between the farm and the consumer may be held accountable for the illnesses and deaths the infected cantaloupes caused. A jury considering negligence among multiple defendants would assign percentages of blame.
A jury might rule that Jensen Farms was responsible for 60 percent of the victims’ harm, including wrongful deaths. Another 20 or 30 percent of the fault could be directed toward the fruit inspectors for failure to stop contaminated shipments. Distributors and retailers not directly involved in safety inspections might share the smaller, remaining portion of financial responsibility.
Total damages are then divided by the percentages decided by the jury.
Punitive damages are often sought in additional to other liability claims to deter the defendant and other similar businesses from future unsafe practices. Colorado officials took a cue from the extensive litigation over the listeria outbreak. As a result, the state upped the frequency of annual cantaloupe inspections.
A defective product or service does not have does not have to harm a large population for a plaintiff to file a compensation request. Liability attorneys advise how to proceed with a civil complaint.
rapidcityjourna.com, “Widow sues Wal-Mart, others in death from melon sold in Chadron” Richard Piersol, Aug. 13, 2013