Settlement Reached for Victims of Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak

Food Safety News
By: News Desk | February

A settlement was recently reached between 66 victims of the 2011 Listeria outbreak linked to Jensen Brothers cantaloupe and some of the 20 defendants. The terms of the settlement are confidential, said Williams Marler of Seattle-based Marler Clark, a food-safety law firm. “The matter was resolved by mutual agreement of the parties,” Marler said. (Marler Clark underwrites Food Safety News, and Marler is publisher of the site.) Marler represented the plaintiffs in their lawsuits against Kroger, which sold some of the cantaloupe at its retail stores, a cantaloupe broker, and a third-party auditing company, among others. Walmart, another defendant, had already settled.Will Steele, president of Frontera, Edinburg, Texas, said the company is “focused on strengthening the industry’s traceability efforts.”“The matter is in the process of being resolved,” Steele said.“Settlement documents have been exchanged with the plaintiffs, and the parties anticipate that those documents will be signed by all the required parties. However, the settlement isn’t officially concluded until that occurs. We believe a final settlement of all claims will be reached soon.”

Steele said the settlement will not effect Frontera’s ongoing business.

“While some predicted or assumed that Frontera Produce would be bankrupted by the past three years of litigation, that is not the case,” Steele said. “Frontera had substantial insurance money, which is being used to cover claims.”

The Listeria outbreak linked to Jensen Brothers cantaloupe is one the deadliest outbreaks in U.S. history. It sickened 147 people in 28 states, resulting in the deaths of 33 people and another 10 who died later. One woman pregnant when she was sickened suffered a miscarriage.

During an inspection of the Jensen Farms packing facility near Holly, CO, in September 2011, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Colorado state health officials took multiple samples of whole cantaloupes and environmental samples from within the facility.

Of 39 environmental samples, FDA stated that 13 were positive for Listeria monocytogenes, and cantaloupe from the firm’s cold storage was also confirmed positive for L. monocytogenes.

Brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen pleaded guilty to six federal misdemeanors in October 2013, including introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce and criminal aiding and abetting. They were each sentenced to five years probation and six months home detention, $150,000 in restitution and 100 hours of community service. The farm operation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.