Associated Press

Insurer sues Va. firm to limit salmonella claims

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By SUE LINDSEY , 02.05.09, 12:59 PM EST


The insurer of a Virginia peanut butter maker has filed suit to determine whether it must pay claims filed by victims of a nationwide salmonella outbreak.

Hartford, Conn.-based Hartford Casualty Insurance Co. filed suit Tuesday against Peanut Corp. of America in federal court in Lynchburg, where the company is based.

Peanut Corp.'s plant in Blakely, Ga., has been identified as the sole source of the salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 550 people, eight of whom have died.

Hartford asked the court to determine whether terms of the company's policy exclude coverage for salmonella claims.

The insurer cited two lawsuits filed by individuals against Peanut Corp. of America and claims by food product manufacturers for expenses related to a nationwide recall of peanut butter, paste and other products sold by the company. It said it expected Peanut Corp. to receive a number of additional claims.

Hartford spokesman David Snowden said Thursday that the insurer was asking the court to determine the extent of its obligation to Peanut Corp.

"We believe this will help clarify the claims process," he said.

Peanut Corp. of America officials were not immediately available for comment.

A criminal investigation is under way. The company has denied any wrongdoing and said Wednesday that its Blakely plant had received regular visits and inspections from state and federal authorities in 2008.



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