The Work

January 28, 2009 2:12 PM

CORRECTED: McGuire Woods Defends Peanut Company in Salmonella Case

Posted by Zach Lowe

CORRECTION: We originally reported that the Peanut Corporation of America had reached out to McGuireWoods to defend itself against civil suits related to a nationwide outbreak of salmonella that has killed eight people and sickened at least 100. The lead plaintiffs lawyer in one of the cases, William Marler in Seattle, said he'd been dealing with McGuire partner James Neale. 

Neale called us the morning of January 29 and said McGuire had ultimately decided not to represent PCA.

The Peanut Corporation of America, beset by lawsuits related to a nationwide salmonella outbreak linked to one of its plants, has hired McGuire Woods as litigation counsel, according to lawyers involved in the cases. 

More than 100 children have already gotten sick from products containing ingredients produced at the company's Blakely, Ga., plant, which has a record of dirty conditions dating to 2006, according to the New York Times. Eight people have died from salmonella poisoning in the outbreak. And today, the Food and Drug Administration released an investigation report revealing that the company was made aware on at least 12 different occasions over the last two years that its products contained salmonella; it continued to distribute the products anyway. The company had the products re-tested at different labs until they got results that passed muster, the NYT says. 

The company's products are used as ingredients in snacks and sold directly at schools and nursing homes, the NYT reports. 

Two plaintiffs already have sued the company: the family of a Minnesota woman who died and parents of a seven-year-old boy hospitalized in Vermont with salmonella poisoning. 

William Marler, a Seattle-based lawyer representing the Vermont family, says James Neale, a McGuire Woods partner based in Virginia, is representing the company. Neale and a firm spokeswoman did not immediately return messages about whether the firm is also advising the company in the general government investigation of the outbreak. 

A company spokesman did not respond to a message seeking comment. 

Coincidentally, McGuire has experience in the salmonella-related litigation against peanut butter companies. Firm lawyers are representing ConAgra (the maker of Peter Pan peanut butter) in salmonella cases, according to the Fulton County Daily Report, an Am Law Daily sibling publication

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