Wal-Mart files suit in Jensen cantaloupe case - The Packer

Wal-Mart files suit in Jensen cantaloupe case

02/14/2014 03:58:00 PM
Tom Karst

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., facing a lawsuit from the family of a woman who died after eating a cantaloupe bought at one of its stores, is now suing the grower, distributor and the grower’s third-party auditor.

Wal-MartThe lawsuit appears be a new strategy against lawsuits by victims of the deadly 2011 listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes grown by Jensen Farms.

In a complaint filed in Wyoming federal court in late January, Wal-Mart asserts third-party claims against Edinburg, Texas, distributor Frontera Produce Ltd., auditors Primus Group Inc. and Bio Food Safety Inc., and Jensen Farms. Primus subcontracted Bio Food Safety to undertake the on-site audit of the cantaloupe farm, which resulted in a superior rating of 96%.

The third-party complaint is tied to a wrongful death lawsuit brought in Wyoming against Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart by Frederick Lollar, the husband of the deceased woman.

Wal-Mart recently hired new legal counsel, said Ryan Fothergill, in-house counsel for Santa Maria, Calif.-based Primus Labs, with a new strategy that apparently brings everyone into the lawsuit for indemnification purposes.

Fothergill said more legal actions might be coming from Wal-Mart against the four parties named in the Wyoming case.

A spokesman for Wal-Mart could not be reach for comment.

Bill Marler, Seattle food safety attorney handling about 45 of the 66 victim cases related to the listeria outbreak, said it is not unusual for a retailer to bring action against upstream suppliers, but Wal-Mart’s naming of a third-party auditor is unusual.

“I’ve never seen it before where a retailer has a third-party complaint against an auditor,” he said.

About 20 of the listeria victim lawsuits name Wal-Mart, and Kroger is the defendant in about 30 cases, Marler said.

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N California  |  February, 17, 2014 at 09:29 AM

"The lawsuit appears be a new strategy against lawsuits by victims" Does anybody understand this strategy?

WA  |  February, 17, 2014 at 10:26 AM

sounds like the strategy is to cover any financial output by obtaining funding from someone else...its not my fault - its their's.

Florida  |  February, 17, 2014 at 04:58 PM

Walmart should own the fact that they did not complete good due diligence on their suppliers and still do not today, they assume that suppliers with or without brokers are doing the proper food safety audits. Any produce safety person working for Walmart whom would have visited this supplier would have put them on a no buy list. Walmart internal food safety program is a much at fault as Primus. So who do you blame. Retailers have to begin to take ownership of food safety. Look at their dirty displays, restocking bins and poor handling techniques. Produce is the only consumable item in the chain store that the consumer can pick up and feel and smell then put in a contaminate shopping cart without a bag, produce is one of the only times that is most of the time consumed raw lacking heat to kill bacterias. So no matter what growers and shippers do the retailer has so many chances to cross contaminate the produce. Why not look at the hard real truth. I am a pioneer of produce safety, and watching a lettuce plant washing and bagging lettuce is more settling than watching consumers and retail employees handle produce.

Produce Guy    
Texas  |  February, 19, 2014 at 07:30 AM

Yes. It's called: Pass the dutchie to the left hand side. Let's all blame someone else and follow the cash. I am sure demanding the cheapest produce prices possible had nothing to do with anything.

February, 20, 2014 at 08:57 AM

Im in produce myself. Primus seems like one big scam to me. Just another way for people to get their hands in the pot. Then you have Wal-Mart who leaves most of their buying up to third parties. Nobody wants to take blame. All I can suggest is that people buy from their local markets. Not from the big retail chains. Most of that crap is weeks old by the time it reaches the floor anyways.

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