Listeria class action is before Quebec judge

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Updated: Fri Mar. 20 2009 11:08:09 AM

A Quebec Superior Court judge is being asked Friday to approve a proposed class-action settlement for victims of the largest meat recall in Canadian history.

Maple Leaf Foods has been sued in several provinces over the deadly outbreak of the listeria bacteria that killed at least 20 people, including two in Quebec.

The suit is sailing through the courts in Ontario and Saskatchewan, leaving Quebec as the only hurdle before victims can start receiving compensation.  The judge heard submissions from the public Friday morning at the Montreal courthouse.

The deal

Maple Leaf has agreed to pay $750 to those who suffered for a day or two and $125,000 plus $750 per day of hospitalization to people with serious and long-lasting physical injuries resulting from the outbreak.

The estates of people who died in the outbreak will get payments of $120,000, with additional amounts to be paid to immediate family members.

Saskatchewan judge says yes

Justice Ron Barclay of Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatchewan approved the $25-million deal Tuesday. Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell will officially certify the lawsuit next week.

The news was welcomed by Regina lawyer Tony Merchant, who represents more than 4,200 plaintiffs across the country.

"I think this is a great settlement for people and as I said to the court, it's rare that counsel are able to say that everything that could have been obtained for the class has been obtained, but that's the case here," said Merchant.

"It's a very fair, generous settlement."

Maple Leaf praised

In his decision, Barclay said Maple Leaf "has taken the high road" on the case and "it's made a huge difference in the settlement process." Perell said the settlement is "fair, reasonable, adequate and in the best interests of the class."

"The company is quite pleased the settlement has been approved," Maple Leaf lawyer Robert Leurer said outside the Regina courthouse.

Merchant said Barclay's decision also approves the settlement for Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the Atlantic provinces and the three territories. "We think that people could be receiving money in April and we're confident that that will happen and people will be able to apply and move forward quickly," said Merchant.


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