Jensens give listeria victims control of case against PrimusLabs - The Packer

Jensens give listeria victims control of case against PrimusLabs

11/21/2013 04:48:00 PM
Coral Beach

Following a meeting with some family members of victims of the 2011 listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe from their farm, Eric and Ryan Jensen signed over a lawsuit they filed against PrimusLabs to the victims.

Attorney Bill Marler, who represents 46 of the 64 victims and their families who have filed civil suits against the Jensen brothers, said Nov. 21 that he would soon file a notice of appearance in Colorado state court in the case against the Santa Maria, Calif., auditing firm.

By “assigning” the case to the victims, the Jensens have basically taken themselves out of the lawsuit against Primus Labs, Marler said. Now he and the other lawyers representing victims in civil cases against the Jensens will prosecute the Colorado case against PrimusLabs.

Any settlement in the Primus Labs case will be divided among the victims, Marler said. He said he could not estimate how long it would take to resolve the case. Marler will continue to represent 46 clients who have filed civil suits against the Jensens.

In the suit against PrimusLabs, the Jensen brothers contend the auditing firm should be liable for damages related to the 2011 listeria outbreak that killed at least 33 people.

The Jensens hired PrimusLabs to do a food safety audit of their operation, but the company paid a third-party contractor to do the job.

Bio Food Safety, a Texas company, sent auditor James Dilorio to Jensen Farms, Holly, Colo., on July 25, 2011, according to the Jensens’ complaint.

Dilorio gave the Jensens’ operation a score of 96 out of 100. He did not raise questions about numerous issues that the Food and Drug Administration cited in its inspection report on the Jensens’ farm and packing facility after the deadly outbreak.

The Jensen brothers each pleaded guilty to six federal misdemeanor criminal charges and are free on bonds, awaiting a Jan. 28 sentencing hearing in Denver.

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Chris Sawyer    
Candler, NC  |  November, 22, 2013 at 09:34 AM

and just how much does mr. marler stand to gain from this.. why is a farmer responsible for what folks do or don't do in their homes with the food they purchase which is well known to be sitting in dirt it's whole Mr. Marler's advice, I am labeling my produce as unfit for human consumption in it's current condition... I don't sell food 'ready to eat'. Jake's Farm is a certified organic operation and is my farm. I'd hate to lose it to an idiot that doesn't know enough to wash food before eating.

Florida  |  November, 22, 2013 at 10:20 AM

When a grower can be put in jail because his produce contains something that is in the ground naturally, and has been so for ever, how can this happen. How many farmers will be put in jail because of traces of these things. This is nothing more than lawyers getting a wider base while our government makes the standards tighter and tighter all so they can charge growers big money for their inspections. A win,win for everyone but the farmer. I grew up on produce grown in manure straight from the source. Long before the USDA and an over abundance of ambulance chasing lawyers and a society that is getting less tolerant to these things.

Chris Sawyer    
Candler, NC  |  November, 22, 2013 at 01:41 PM

I asked the NCDA to provide a way to check my soil for Listeria.. they said there's no point, we find it everywhere we look. Are you'all not upset. My heart is bleeding real blood for all concerned, but especially for the Jenson's, who have documented their operation as best as possible, with a top named lab, and still are forced to plead quilty. Of what.. growing cantelope on the dirt.. I don't care if the whole world points their finger at me.. These farmers were doing the best scientific job they knew how, just like me, except I have been told to keep my dogs out of the fields and I refuse. They are not dogs, are documented to be on patrol for rodents.. they are an extermination plan. Whatever... it's way past time we act like chickens, and refuse to be herded. WE need a herd that acts like buffalo and more. I am betting my sales go up with the new, "animal food; unfit for human consumption in it' present state" labels, and danger signs posted all over it.

South Africa  |  November, 25, 2013 at 12:52 AM

The problem here is not the soil, but the water they were washing the melons. Bad practices resulted from the washing step. That should have been questioned, or at least noted on the audit report. I have recently met Mr Marler personally and he did not at all came across someone that is ONLY in this game for the money. For him it is all about the victims. Mr Marler stated that he will NEVER sue a farm that can prove that they did everything to prevent a food safety outbreak. But will trial producers that are negligent in preventing a food safety issue.

Produce Guy    
Texas  |  November, 25, 2013 at 07:04 AM

Christi, the wash water might have been the problem, but a bigger problem (than food safety) for the industry is lawyers. If we allow these leaches to profit they will destroy the industry. I wonder what Mr. Marler's fee will be...hmmm... 30%,50%?? Hard working people in produce make 3% to 5% in profits if they are lucky. Why do we allow people that produce NOTHING to make so much. If Mr. Marler cares so much for the victims as he says he does, perhaps he should only make the same percentage that produce companies make and distribute the rest to the victims. Now that's an idea.

Produce Lady    
NW  |  November, 25, 2013 at 05:00 PM


South Africa  |  November, 26, 2013 at 12:22 AM

Dear Produce Guy, I fully understand your point. The risk hereis people might now only sue because of the money....... Remember a producer will not be sued if he can proof that he did everything to prevent an outbreak. If the lawyers do not have a case, the industry will not suffer. Another thought, producers are paying auditing companies to identify any potential food safety issues. In the case of Jensen Farms, the potential risk from the wash water was not even mentioned. This is a concern. Every one in the supply chain, the producer, the auditing body, the retailer, etc. must ensure that they have systems in place to prevent such an outbreak where innocent people suffer and died. If someone like Mr Marler does not take action against those that were responsible for an outbreak, who will? People cannot just die and no one takes action?

Produce Guy    
Texas  |  November, 29, 2013 at 08:21 AM

Christi: Anyone that is in the Produce industry will tell you that things are never black or white. Slim profit margins do nothing to help and the fact that most produce businesses are owned by small companies with limited resources (educational, financial, man power, etc..) only compounds the problem. Produce will never be 100% safe and if it is, we are DECADES away from reaching that point. Given the current state of affairs, I guarantee you that any lawyer with half a brain (and most have more than that), will be able to find (what can be construed as) negligence in every single company out there at some point or another. Whether the Jensen bros were criminally negligent or not, depends, in my opinion, on whether they personally knew what they where doing was wrong and whether they intended to harm people with their actions. I believe the answer to those questions is no. Criminally charging them sets a dangerous precedent. Mr. Marler is not only going after the Jensen brothers (where the problem was), but after everyone in the chain that touched the produce. This to me indicates that he is plain and simply chasing the buck. Suing these companies has nothing to do with food safety and everything to do with lining his pockets. His actions can potentially destroy several companies that have nothing to do with the root problem. At what point do we stop guys like Mr. Marler from terrorizing the whole industry? Let's make our produce industry completely uncompetitive and let's import everything form other countries. Maybe will be safer then...

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