Lawyer seeks dismissal of Boise lawsuit, will consolidate tainted berry mix cases

jsowell@idahostatesman.comJuly 3, 2014 

Label from the Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, a berry and pomegranate seed mix that is subject of a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boise.

Seattle attorney William Marler filed a motion Tuesday seeking dismissal so that the Idaho claims can be consolidated with pending class action lawsuits in the Los Angeles area.

Boise residents Marisa and Michael Berndt filed suit last June after they consumed a three-pound bag of frozen fruit purchased from Costco and manufactured by Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore. They did not become sick but they were especially worried because Marisa Berndt was pregnant at the time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal Food and Drug Administration determined that pomegranate seeds contained in the mix were contaminated with the hepatitis A virus. The CDC advised anyone who ate the berry mix obtain a hepatitis A vaccination.

Costco was the exclusive distributer of the mix and the company pulled the product from its shelves as soon as it became aware of the problem.

At least 162 people in 10 states were infected and became ill between March and July 2013. Nearly half of the illnesses, 79, were reported in California. No one from Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Wyoming reported getting sick, according to the CDC.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease caused by contact with fecal material. The illness can be mild, lasting for a few weeks, or it can be severe and last for several months, according to the CDC.

It is believed that more than 10,000 people were potentially exposed to the hepatitis A virus through the Townsend Farms berry mix.

The tainted pomegranate seeds originated from a company in Turkey. They were purchased and sold by two other United States companies — Fallon Trading in Pennsylvania and United Juice in Florida — before getting sold by a California company, Purely Pomegranate, to Townsend Farms.

Twenty-nine lawsuits, including nine class action suits, have been filed across the country.

Since February, a series of settlement discussions have taken place between Marler's firm and other attorneys representing victims and the four companies being sued, Townsend Farms, Purely Pomegranate, Fallon Trading and United Juice.

Two cases have been settled and settlement talks have continued. The most recent session was held May 1.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service