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Massey v. Conagra Foods – Dangerous Food Product Case Goes Forward

Consumers have the right to be confident that when they purchase food products from the grocery store – items that will be served to themselves and their families – that those products will be safe.

Unfortunately, food manufacturers are not as careful at protecting the public’s health and welfare as they are at protecting their own bottom line. Our Broward County injury attorneys have seen serious illness and even death as a result, particularly for vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly and pregnant women.

In 2010, the latest full year for which data is available from the Florida Health Department, there were 65 outbreaks of food and waterborne illnesses in Florida (they are not separated by type), with 807 cases of illness. Of those cases, 190 were reported in Broward County.

In cases where serious food-born illness can be traced to a specific manufacturer, a product liability claim may be appropriate.

This is the case in Massey v. Conagra Foods. Plaintiffs recently got one step closer with the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision to allow their claim to continue to trial, reversing an earlier ruling from the district court.

According to case records, the plaintiff for years had consumed a certain brand of chicken pot pies. She always cooked the product according to the package specification, and had never had any issue. However, one day when she was six-months pregnant with her daughter, she consumed this particular brand of pot pie and subsequently became violently ill.

She was taken to the hospital, where it was confirmed she had developed salmonellosis, a condition caused by exposure to the bacteria salmonella. A month earlier, a salmonella outbreak had been discovered by the state health department. In later interviewing those who had been affected, the outbreak was traced back to the manufacturer of the pot pies.

This plaintiff had an especially difficult recovery. She remained sick for nearly the rest of her pregnancy, unable to consume the same drugs as other sufferers for fear of harming her unborn child. She endured numerous hospitalizations and had to frequently return for diagnostic testing and monitoring.

After the birth of her child, she filed a lawsuit on behalf of herself, her husband and their daughter for product liability, negligence and breach of warranty.

The district court approved the manufacturer’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds the plaintiff had not proven the food products were defective. The plaintiffs requested reconsideration, but were denied. They appealed to the state supreme court.

The justices reversed the lower court’s ruling, finding the trial court erred in finding there were no genuine issues of fact to be decided, and further in determining the plaintiff’s hadn’t met the necessary burden of proof in showing the pies were defective and that the company failed to warn. The court pointed to the fact that the exact strain of illness found in her test results was also found in others who had consumed the same product. The product itself was found in her trash, and traces of the same bacteria were found therein.

The company argued the bacteria was never found at its manufacturing plant. However, the supreme court indicated that is an element of the case best weighed by a jury.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Massey v. Conagra Foods, June 17, 2014, Idaho Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Common Child Cold Remedies Recalled by CPSC, Feb. 18, 2014, Broward County Product Liability Attorney

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