Peanut sickness suit settled

Published 9:49 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A federal judge has recommended a $12-million settlement in a lawsuit brought by more than 120 claimants against Peanut Corporation of America, which once owned a peanut blanching plant in Suffolk.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Urbanski recommended the settlement that, if accepted by U.S. District Judge Norman Moon, would close out the legal process that stemmed from an outbreak of salmonella connected to contaminated products made in PCA’s processing plants in Blakely, Ga., and Plainview, Texas.

Nine people died as a result of the salmonella outbreak and more than 700 others were sickened. More than 1,500 products that included the company’s peanuts eventually were recalled.

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The company filed for bankruptcy in February 2009. Tidewater Blanching Corp., a Suffolk plant owned by PCA that had employed 13 people, closed at about the same time.

The settlement calls for the $12 million to be divided among 122 claimants, including representatives of the nine people who died and 45 children who were sickened.

Settlements for the estates of those who died ranged from just under $100,000 to nearly a million dollars. Among those minors in the lawsuit who were sickened by the company’s products, settlements ranged from $15,000 to $395,008. Settlements for adults who were sickened and sued were not subject to the judge’s review and hence were not fully reported in public court documents.

“I am pleased that we will be able to tell our clients that they will finally receive reimbursement for their medical expenses and wage loss,” said Marler Clark managing partner Bill Marler. “This has been a complex settlement process but has resolved to the benefit of those injured.”

Marler Clark represented 109 of the outbreak’s victims, including the family of one of the deceased.