May 21, 2019

Legal Review of Liability Continues in Costco Hepatitis Lawsuit

Berry-Blend-Hepatitis-LawsuU.S. District Court in Arizona is the venue for a Costco hepatitis lawsuit where food poisoning lawyers from Pritzker Olsen Attorneys and local counsel are attempting to establish where the fault lies for an outbreak in California, Colorado, Arizona and five other states that federal disease investigators have associated with Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all ill people who reported eating this mixed berry product purchased it from Costco markets. The product also was sold at Harris Teeter stores, but no ill people have been identified that bought the product at Harris Teeter, the CDC has said.

The hepatitis lawsuit (2:13-cv-01181-ROS) names Costco Wholesale Corp. and Oregon-based Townsend Farms Inc. as defendants in connection with an outbreak of  143 confirmed case patients, 63 of whom were hospitalized for treatment of hepatitis A infections. Lead attorney Fred Pritzker, who recently settled a food poisoning outbreak case for $4.5 million, represents an Arizona resident who purchased four bags of the frozen berry mix from a Costco store in Phoenix during March and April. He fell so ill in early May that he went to an Urgent Care and later  to Arrowhead Hospital in Glendale, where he was admitted and treated for acute hepatitis A infection. He had endured an attack on his body that lasted more than two weeks.

Pritzker said one of the issues in the case will be marketing promises by Townsend Farms that the company delivers exceptional food safety and chaste selection of ingredients. “The Townsend family personally selects the farms we work with based on shared vision and goals, high standards of quality, a commitment to Good Agricultural Practices,” the company said in marketing materials published throughout the outbreak period.

Another issue will center on the defect that caused so many people to get sick. The 16-page complaint alleges that Costco and Townsend Farms knew that the berry product was to be purchased and consumed without inspection or testing for pathogens. “How was the public to know that the product was laced with a virus?” said Pritzker, whose law firm is continuing to accept additional case patients for representation.

A federal document indicates that CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have determined that the most likely vehicle for the hepatitis A virus appears to be a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from a company in Turkey — a part of the world where the outbreak strain of hepatitis A is known to circulate. Pritzker is questioning in court what steps were taken by Townsend Farms and Costco to ensure the seeds were wholesome.  “These pomegranate seeds were used by Townsend Farms to make the Townsend Farms and Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Blends,” the document says.

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