BATON ROUGE, LA (September 21, 2012)—Marler Clark, the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of foodborne illness, and Shreveport-based McMichael, Medlin, D’Anna, Wedgeworth & Lafargue, filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of the sons of a Baton Rouge woman who died as a result of a Listeria infection she contracted during last year’s outbreak linked to cantaloupes grown by Colorado-based Jensen Farms. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge against Frontera Produce, the company that distributed the Listeria-contaminated Jensen Farms cantaloupes, and Primus Labs, the company that performed a food safety inspection of the Jensen Farms facility prior to the Listeria outbreak.
According to the complaint, Jensen Farms and Frontera Produce contracted with Primus Labs to conduct an audit of the Jensen Farms packing facility on July 25, 2011, just 5 days before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the first victim of the cantaloupe-related Listeria outbreak. Primus Labs subcontracted the audit to Bio Food Safety, another auditing company, which rated the Jensen Farms packing house “superior” and scored the facility 96%. The complaint alleges that Frontera produce represented the cantaloupes it sold as “Primus Certified” “as an inducement for the purchase of its various products, including cantaloupes.”
After Jensen Farms’ cantaloupes had been identified as the source of the Listeria outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Colorado public health officials conducted a separate inspection of the Jensen Farms packing facility. The agencies found fault with the packing facility design, equipment design and postharvest practices.
“Primus Labs and its subcontractor, Bio Food Safety, should have closed the Jensen Farms packing facility after the July 25 audit, thereby preventing Frontera from distributing the cantaloupe that my clients’ mother purchased,” said attorney Bill Marler. “Frontera Produce promoted its products as ‘Primus Certified’ as a marketing tool. People across the country believed in that certification, and as things turned out, it meant nothing.”
Marler noted that Jensen Farms and Bio Food Safety filed for bankruptcy after the Listeria outbreak and were therefore not named as defendants in the lawsuit. He concluded, “When it comes down to it, in this case maybe someone should have audited the auditors.”
MARLER CLARK represents 44 families with members who became ill with Listeria infections after eating contaminated cantaloupe grown by Jensen Farms. This is the 14th lawsuit the firm has filed in connection with the Listeria outbreak, which federal public health agencies say resulted in 147 illnesses, at least 33 deaths, and 1 miscarriage. The firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of another Louisiana family in Bossier Parish District Court on September 18, 2012.