Parents deny affirmative defenses in tainted peanut butter lawsuit

Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Sep. 25, 2013, 5:03pm

Parents who claim their daughter ate Peter Pan peanut butter containing salmonella have replied to the defendants’ affirmative defenses, denying all allegations.

Plaintiffs Lonnie and Penny Hill claim their daughter, Cara, became ill after eating the peanut butter they purchased from Country Market in Nov. 2006.

According to the complaint filed in May, the plaintiffs claim the peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella, causing their daughter’s illness and a permanent condition called ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis affecting the spine.

ConAgra, which manufactures Peter Pan peanut butter, responded to the complaint on June 27 denying any of its acts or omissions were the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. It also requested a jury trial.

“Plaintiff’s illnesses, if any, were the result of natural health processes and would have occurred just as they did irrespective of ConAgra’s actions or conduct,” the response states. “Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by an intervening or superseding cause.”

ConAgra continued to state in its response, “The negligence of the plaintiff and her failure to use that degree of care as would have been used by an ordinary, reasonable and prudentperson under the same or similar circumstances was a, or the sole, proximate cause of their injuries, if any.”

Niemann Foods Inc. is also named a defendant. It requested to be dismissed of strict liability claims in its June 27 response, arguing that the only complaint brought against it was selling the defective peanut butter and that it knew nothing about the contamination.

The Hills seek a judgment of more than $50,000.

Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge ordered a case management conference and motion hearing regarding the Niemann Foods Inc.’s motion to dismiss to be continued until 9 a.m. Oct. 4.

Michael P. Glisson of Williamson, Webster, Falb and Glisson in Alton represents the plaintiff.

Theodore J. MacDonald, Jr. and Michael L. Young of HeplerBroom in St. Louis represent ConAgra Foods and Niemann Foods, Inc.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 13-L-772

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