J.T., 3, ate cake that had been made with eggs purchased from a Texas grocery store. Within two days, he began suffering from a high fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The symptoms worsened, and J.T. began complaining of pain in his right hip. He was hospitalized, and doctors discovered that his right hip bone and surrounding tissues were infected with Salmonella enteritidis. J.T. remained hospitalized for about a week with the life-threatening infection until his condition stabilized. He recovered but continues to suffer hip pain. His past medical expenses totaled about $15,000.
J.T.’s illness was traced to eggs supplied by Wright County Egg, which subsequently recalled nearly 380 million eggs. An FDA investigation of the company’s facilities revealed piles of manure, flies, maggots, rodent holes, and other sources of contamination. Samples collected from the facilities tested positive for Salmonella enteritidis. Nearly 1,900 people were reportedly sickened by the outbreak, which was traced to eggs supplied by Wright County and one other facility.
J.T.’s parents, individually and on their son’s behalf, sued Wright County Egg, alleging strict liability for manufacturing, distributing, and selling a defective and unreasonably dangerous food product adulterated with Salmonella; negligence per se for violation of federal and state food safety regulations; and negligence for failing to use reasonable care in producing its eggs and failing to properly train, supervise, and monitor its employees.
The plaintiffs also sought punitive damages, alleging that the defendant acted willfully and wantonly in disregarding consumer safety. They asserted that the company was aware of the presence of Salmonella at its facilities but failed to take corrective action. The plaintiffs were also prepared to show that other egg production facilities owned and operated by the same individual who owned Wright County Egg have been linked to similar outbreaks dating back to 1982.
The parties settled for $250,000, including the purchase of a $100,000 annuity that will yield periodic payments to J.T. after he reaches the age of majority.
Citation: Tucker v. Quality Egg, LLC, No. 3:10-cv-03060 (N.D. Iowa Nov. 10, 2011).
Plaintiff counsel: David W. Babcock and AAJ member William D. Marler, both of Seattle; and Kara Marie Simons and Steven P. Wandro, both of Des Moines.
Comment: The defendant has reportedly settled with a number of other consumers sickened by the same outbreak.