Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Walmart, Pathmark, Topps Meat For Selling E. Coli Tainted Beef

28 people in 8 states have fallen ill due to e. coli exposure from Topps frozen hamburgers and now a class action lawsuit has been filed against the meat processor and several grocery stores who sold the product. 10 people have been hospitalized. One has hemolytic-uremic syndrome, which causes kidney failure.

Last week, Topps recalled 21.7 million pounds of frozen hamburger patties, making it the one of the largest recalls of its kind and the company’s first in 67 years of operation. From the NYT:

The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in New York, seeks compensation from Topps and a number of stores that stock its frozen meat, including Wal-Mart, ShopRite and Pathmark. The suit names four plaintiffs, according to Robert K. Jenner, a Baltimore lawyer.

One plaintiff, Jimmy Patton of Springdale, Ark., bought a bag of Sam’s Choice Backyard Gourmet Beef Burgers on Sept. 15 from Wal-Mart, the suit said. Seven days later he cooked and ate the beef. By Sept. 26, the suit said, Mr. Patton “began exhibiting symptoms of E. coli exposure, including but not limited to severe abdominal cramps, severe bloody diarrhea and fatigue.”

Topps, a meat processor that doesn’t slaughter animals, has suspended production of hamburger and is working to locate the source of the contaminated beef.

Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against Producer of Beef [NYT]

PREVIOUSLY: Hamburger Recalled For E. Coli After 6 Illnesses Reported In New York
Meat Industry Showing Signs Of Larger Problems

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  1. punkrawka says:

    I know that naming multiple defendants is common practice, but how is this Wal-Mart’s fault? Even if they had some kind of random testing of a certain percentage of each product they sold (which would be an unreasonably huge effort in and of itself), they still couldn’t have been expected to find this tainted meat.

  2. DarthSensei says:

    “severe bloody diarrhea”

    The plaintiff wins your honor.

  3. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    “Severe bloody diarrhea?” That sucks.

    We, the jury, find in favor of the plaintiffs and award the plaintiffs punitive damages in the amount of $250 million and legal costs PER PLAINTIFF.

    The only way to force a conglomerate like walmart or Topps to make sure the crap they peddle is safe is to make it too expensive for them not to. $250 million per plaintiff should do it.

  4. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Yeah, you’d love to have me on a jury on a lawsuit like this, huh? Because we all love to see walmart squirm.

    By the way, $250 million per plaintiff comes out to a total of $7 billion for everyone.

  5. Murph1908 says:

    I dislike WalMart. I don’t shop there.

    But I have to [shudder] defend them in this case. How is it their fault? If there was a recall, and they left it on the shelf, or if they mishandled the product, then yes, they should be liable.

    But everyone out there who wants to hold WalMart liable in this case better be careful what they wish for.

    Do YOU want to be held liable for a defect in your car you didn’t know about, which causes an accident, and 3 weeks later there’s a recall?

  6. huadpe says:

    They are being sued in this case because they (re?)packaged it under a store brand. He bought the “Sam’s Club” burgers, and then got sick. Wal-Mart wasn’t acting as the retailer here, but as the manufacturer and retailer. Thus they are liable for the product even before it is recalled.

  7. NefariousNewt says:

    Just heard on NPR that Topps is closing its doors, due to the outbreak. Apparently they’ve been so relentlessly hammered and the recall has happened so late (a lot of the hamburger appears to have already been eaten), that they are unable to withstand the negative publicity.

  8. harshmellow says:

    Wal-Mart will probably get themselves out of this suit. I can’t stand them, but they can’t possibly be liable for this. This is common practice for plaintiff’s lawyers, and many times (in my experience), the store is removed from the suit. In fairness, how are they supposed to know when there is nothing visibly wrong with the product? Of course, if they knew (doubt it), they are liable…

  9. MeTheCoach says:

    Topps has hit bottom, as the New York area radio stations are announcing that the company has announced it’s closing as of today.

  10. Hanke says:

    Topps Meat has gone out of business as of TODAY.

    [www.toppsmeat.com]

  11. MadDog23 says:

    While naming a bunch of companies might seem like overkill, and I’m sure the lawyers are going to target anyone who has money, there is a somewhat valid point to all of this; we keep seeing outbreaks of contaminated food and suppliers that are unable or unwilling to track the steps in production accurately. Hopefully, if WalMart gets burned in the suit, they will demand that all of their suppliers of food products start documenting their production process better. And what WalMart wants, WalMart generally gets, at least from suppliers.â™ 

  12. FLConsumer says:

    I had a feeling Topps was probably going to close their doors after this. At the very least, to shield themselves from liability. Additionally, the damage done to their “brand image” is irreversible at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ultimately form a new company with a different name and start right back up again.

    Anyone remember ValueJet? They’re still around, called AirTran now. Their planes still are involved with quite a few accidents, although none of them have been anywhere near as catastrophic as ValuJet 592.

  13. kellyhelene says:
  14. rhombopteryx says:

    @harshmellow:
    And
    @MadDog23:

    As HUADPE explained Wal-Mart (through their Sam’s Club brand) was selling/repackaging/branding its own burgers, not just retailing a product untouched. That apparently matters for some legal purposes in some states, though I say sue the retailers even if it was the wholesalers’ fault – the retailers still were the ones making money selling crap, even if they didn’t make it themselves.

  15. synergy says:

    Is the government named as a defendant? Because last time I checked, the government was in charge of inspecting our food and instead all they keep doing is cutting inspectors and allowing plants to work years without a single inspection. Hence, the multiple outbreaks of bloody diarrhea in various food products.

  16. harshmellow says:

    @rhombopteryx: OH, that makes a BIG difference. Wal-Mart is definitely on the hook then.

  17. RISwampyankee says:

    Wall Mart is culpable in that all they demand is product at the lowest possible price. Lead in the paint? They don’t care. E coli in the beef? Caveat emptor! Product liability is for the corporate “little people” like Topps.