Companies named in contaminated peanut butter suit fight back

By Christina Stueve Hodges | Aug 14, 2013

Judge Mudge

Attorneys for a grocery chain that is being sued for allegedly selling salmonella-tainted peanut butter have requested Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge to reset their case on the next available docket.

Lonnie and Penny Hill claim their daughter, Cara Hill, ingested Peter Pan peanut butter, purchased from Country Market on or before Nov. 19, 2006. After eating the peanut butter within days of the purchase, Cara Hill became ill, according to the complaint filed in May.

The Hills allege the peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella, which caused 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, denies any of its acts or omissions were the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries in its June 27 response to the complaint.

“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,” ConAgra states. “Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by an intervening or superseding cause.”

“The negligence of the plaintiff and her failure to use that degree of care as would have been used by an ordinary, reasonable and prudent person under the same or similar circumstances was a, or the sole, proximate cause of their injuries, if any."

ConAgra requests a jury trial.

The Hills also name Niemann Foods Inc. as a defendant.

Niemann Foods stated in its June 27 response to the lawsuit that dismissal of strict liability claims against the company is appropriate.

“Plaintiffs allege no facts demonstrating that Niemann did anything more than simply sell the defective peanut butter," states its response. "Nor have the plaintiffs alleged (nor can ever prove) that Niemann knew of the defective product, as Niemann sold the peanut butter to the plaintiffs three months before the Food and Drug Administration indicated that the product was contaminated.”

The Hills seek more than $50,000, plus costs.

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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