A food poisoning lawsuit that garnered national attention has ended with a 28-year sentence for peanut company executive Steve Parnell. The Peanut Corporation of America verdict was the harshest punishment ever awarded for a foodborne illness case, and yet it is not the end of the food poisoning litigation associated with this case.
What made the Peanut Corporation of America lawsuit unique (because food poisoning cases in general are not unique in the U.S., where 1 in 6 Americans suffer from foodborne illness every year) was the volume of evidence showing that Parnell shipped peanut products he knew to be contaminated. Although the court accepted that Parnell did not want to hurt consumers, he ultimately decided that his company’s profits were more important than protecting consumers from the contaminated peanuts he chose to ship.
In the end, hundreds of people were sickened and nine people died. Although there are other salmonella cases currently pending with similar numbers (such as a cucumber salmonella case that currently affects 33 states, including Wisconsin), none so far involves an executive showing the level of negligence and disregard for the health and safety of others that this one did.
Although Parnell’s sentence (and that of his food broker brother, who was also sentenced to 20 years in prison) may give some level of satisfaction to food security activists and others associated with the case, litigation isn’t over yet. Two ex-managers of the Georgia-based peanut plant who were complicit in shipping the tainted peanuts now face prison sentences of their own. Both men pleaded guilty when charges were filed, and as of this writing they are scheduled to appear before the same judge that sentenced Parnell.
In contrast to the stiff criminal sentences that the PCA case has drawn, a current case against ConAgra for a huge salmonella outbreak involving Peter Pan peanut butter is unlikely to result in any criminal sentencing. Although at least 700 people suffered food poisoning in the outbreak, investigators have been unable to show that ConAgra knowingly shipped contaminated products. According to Dan Flynn of Food Safety News, ConAgra will likely make a plea and pay a $11.2-million fine.
Domnitz & Domnitz, S.C. are experienced Milwaukee food poisoning Attorneys eager to represent those who have suffered substantial harm due to food poisoning. If you believe that you have suffered a foodborne illness through no fault of your own, we may be able to help. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your case.