The Pueblo West View
legal claims

More suits expected on tainted cantaloupes

Melons were contaminated at a processing plant

DENVER — An attorney said Monday he’ll soon file 30 more lawsuits for victims of contaminated cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Holly in 2011.

The melons actually were not tainted at the farm but rather at a nearby processing operation.

Attorney Bill Marler said the next batch of lawsuits will be against retailers who sold the product, the distributor Jensen used and a food safety laboratory company.

Jensen, which declared bankruptcy, and two other companies paid $3.8 million recently to settle an earlier set of lawsuits. They will not be targets of the new round of cases, Marler said.

A court document states Jensen obtained $2 million from its insurance company; food safety auditor Bio Food obtained $500,000 from its insurance company; and Pepper Equipment Co. contributed the remaining $1.3 million of the $3.8 million.

Listeria-contaminated cantaloupes left more than 30 people dead and 150 sick in numerous states. The outbreak was traced to a Granada processing plant.

Marler, a nationally known food liability attorney in Seattle, said the new cases will be filed because two years of efforts to reach settlements have been unsuccessful.

Defendants will be Walmart, King Soopers, City Market, as well as distributor Frontera Produce of Edinburg, Texas, and Primus Labs of Santa Maira, Calif., he said. Primus reportedly subcontracted the safety audit to Bio Food.

He said in May, medical bills of people who became sick allegedly from the cantaloupes at that point totaled $14 million.

A federal criminal probe involving the contamination is ongoing.

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The Pueblo West View