Walmart Sues Grower, Distributor And Third-Party Auditor In Cantaloupe Case

About 20 of the listeria victim wrongful death lawsuits name WalMart, while Kroger is the defendant in about 30 cases.

Facing a wrongful death lawsuit brought in Wyoming by Frederick Lollar, the husband of a woman who died after eating a cantaloupe bought at one of its stores, WalMart Stores Inc., recently filed a lawsuit  the the grower, distributor and the grower’s third-party auditor in a new strategy against lawsuits by victims of the deadly 2011 listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes grown by Jensen Farms.

In a complaint filed in Wyoming federal court in late January, WalMart asserts third-party claims against distributor Frontera Produce Ltd., auditors Primus Group Inc. and Bio Food Safety Inc., and Jensen Farms. Primus subcontracted Bio Food Safety to undertake the on-site audit of the cantaloupe farm, which resulted in a superior rating of 96%.

WalMart recently hired new legal counsel, said Ryan Fothergill, in-house counsel for Santa Maria, Calif.-based Primus Labs, with a new strategy that apparently brings everyone into the lawsuit for indemnification purposes. Fothergill told he predicts more legal actions might be coming from WalMart against the four parties named in the Wyoming case.

Bill Marler, Seattle food safety attorney handling about 45 of the 66 victim cases related to the listeria outbreak, said it is not unusual for a retailer to bring action against upstream suppliers, but WalMart’s naming of a third-party auditor is unusual.

“I’ve never seen it before where a retailer has a third-party complaint against an auditor,” said Marler.

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