The Checkout

Nebraska Beef Pursues Church Ladies

Annys Shin

A few weeks ago, I spoke with Bill Lamson, an attorney for Nebraska Beef, the Omaha meat packer that has had two large recalls this year of beef linked to two separate E. coli outbreaks, including one that sickened Whole Foods Market customers in two states. I found him to be exceedingly reasonable and pleasant to speak with. At the time, I asked him about the lawsuit that Nebraska Beef had filed against a church in rural Minnesota in connection with a cluster of E. coli illnesses two years ago among more than a dozen parishioners who ate at the same smorgasbord. One woman died and her family is suing Nebraska Beef.

During my chat with Lamson, he said that the management of the company wanted to drop the suit against the church and I put that in my story.

Well, it turns out that not only has Nebraska Beef not dropped its suit against the church but it is now going after the church ladies who threw the smorgasbord, according to Leatha G. Wolter, a lawyer for the church.

Here is the e-mail I received from her yesterday:

I read your article on Nebraska Beef with interest. As you know, I represent Salem Lutheran Church. Contrary to the information you received from Nebraska Beef's representative, I have been informed that the company will not dismiss the church from the E-coli litigation. In fact, I was informed by Nebraska Beef's lawyer that the company will seek permission to add the women's group from the church as an additional defendant. The women's group held the smorgasbord to raise money for mission work...I thought you might find this information of interest given Nebraska Beef's public promise in your article to release the church from this litigation.

Very interesting indeed. While I understand that the company is trying to argue that the food was not prepared properly--and hence the illnesses were not its fault--it makes you wonder whether, from a PR standpoint, the case is really worth pursuing. As of yesterday, it was headed for trial.

By Annys Shin |  September 3, 2008; 10:05 AM ET Annys Shin
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