Thu, March 5, 2009

$25M Listeria lawsuit against Maple Leaf about food safety, says family involved

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UPDATED: 2009-03-05 14:23:58 MST




TORONTO — The children of an 89-year-old woman who died in the nationwide listeriosis outbreak say a lawsuit against Maple Leaf Foods (TSX:MFI) is more about food safety than money.

Karen Clark and her brother Timothy were in a Toronto court today where a settlement in a $25-million class-action suit was before a judge for approval.

An affidavit filed with the court says Frances Clark, who died Aug. 25, ate tainted Maple Leaf products as she recovered in a hospital in Belleville, Ont., after a fall.

She again ate Maple Leaf products at a long-term care facility.

Several lawsuits have been filed across the country accusing Maple Leaf of negligence.


The listeriosis outbreak that killed at least 20 people last summer was linked to one of Maple Leaf’s Toronto plants, triggering the largest meat recall in Canadian history.

The Clarks say their mother suffered terribly, and their hearts go out to other victims who were sickened or died in the outbreak.

“It isn’t the money so much. It’s to get changes made so this doesn’t happen again to anybody,” Timothy Clark said outside the court. “That’s the reason we got into the lawsuit.”

As part of the settlement, the company has agreed to pay up to $125,000 to people with serious and long-lasting physical injuries resulting from the outbreak.

Payments of $120,000 will go to estates of the deceased with “additional substantial amounts” to be paid to immediate family members.

Those who sustained physical symptoms consistent with listeriosis lasting between 24 and 48 hours will get $750.

Plaintiff lawyer Joel Rochon says about 3,151 claims have been identified, and others could still come forward.

The Clarks said they still haven’t truly grieved for their mother and only will when the legal process is over.

The agreement still needs approval from courts in Saskatchewan and Quebec. Hearings are scheduled for March 10 in Saskatchewan and March 20 in Quebec.




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