A Midwest retailer wants a produce supplier held accountable for a 2011 E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce.
St. Louis-based Schnucks Markets Inc. has filed a complaint against supplier Vaughan Foods Inc., Moore, Okla. Schnucks used lettuce from Vaughan Foods to stock salad bars.
The complaint is a third-party filing in a lawsuit the retailer is facing in St. Clair County, Ill. An Illinois husband and wife filed the civil suit against Schnucks and several employees after the wife and their daughter was hospitalized with an E. coli infection after eating the lettuce. They are requesting $800,000 in the suit.
According to the Schnucks complaint, the retailer wants Vaughan Foods to pay legal fees and damages if Schnucks is found liable in the main case.
Officials with Schnucks and Vaughan Foods have declined to comment on the pending litigation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 58 people in nine states were sickened during the outbreak. No deaths were linked to the outbreak.
According to Schnucks’ complaint, Vaughan Foods was the sole supplier for the implicated romaine lettuce. In December 2011 Mark Vaughan, president of Vaughan Foods, confirmed his company supplied fresh-cut produce to Schnucks.
The sales agreement between the two companies, according to court documents, specified that Vaughan Foods would “indemnify and hold harmless Schnucks against any and all liabilities, … without limitation, … arising from or related to, … any claims based on bodily injury to any person and/or any claim based on negligence, omissions or willful misconduct of Vaughan.”
Schnucks complaint contends that Vaughan Foods “warranted that the romaine lettuce was of good, fresh quality and unadulterated, free from pathogens including E. coli 0157:H7 and generally fit for human consumption.”
The retailer also quotes the suit filed by the Illinois couple in its complaint against Vaughan Foods: “according to plaintiffs’ allegations … the romaine lettuce sold to Schnucks by Vaughan was allegedly contaminated prior to delivery with E. coli 0157:H7.”