An Edmonton law firm is suing the farm and slaughterhouse at the centre of a recent E.coli outbreak for $15 million.
James H. Brown & Associates has filed a multi-million dollar class-action lawsuit against The Meat Shop at Pine Haven, an abattoir and artisan sausage-making facility located at the Pine Haven Hutterite community west of Wetaskiwin, Alta.
According to the statement of claim, the lawsuit is on behalf of all people who suffered damages as a result of buying or consuming pork products that may have been contaminated with E. coli.
“It’s our best estimate of what the losses might be for the class at this point in time,” Rick Mallett, head of the class-action team at James H. Brown and Associates, said when asked about how his team arrived at the $15-million figure. “It’s a big class. There’s already 36 people that have been affected, including one fatality which is incredibly tragic for that family.
“We received a telephone call from someone who had become quite ill from consuming these recalled pork products,” Mallett said when asked how the lawsuit came about. “They were sick, some of their family members were sick.”
On Wednesday, Alberta Health Services said it has a “fair degree of confidence” that a recent outbreak of E. coli in the Edmonton area is linked to certain raw and ready-to-eat pork products sold and distributed by the Meat Shop at Pine Haven, south of Wetaskiwin.
As of Thursday, the number of lab-confirmed cases related to the outbreak is at 36, including 11 patients who have needed hospital care and one death that Alberta Health Services (AHS) said was “likely” due to E. coli infection.
AHS confirmed that 21 E. coli cases were linked to Mama Nita’s Binalot restaurant in Edmonton.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a food recall warning for certain pork products sold and distributed by The Meat Shop at Pine Haven between Feb. 19 and April 24, 2018.
The recall issued Wednesday was expanded Thursday to include certain products sold at K & K Foodliner and Irvings Farm Fresh products.
The co-owner of K & K Foodliner told Global News on Thursday that the store had been buying meat from The Meat Shop at Pine Haven for about three years. The store used pork from The Meat Shop in some of its foods.
“They have a good product. They just had a misfortune of having something happen. They deal with a lot of restaurants and a lot of delis. So hopefully they can get things sorted out and survive,” Bernie Krause said.
“For us, it’s just hard to fathom how big this thing can be.”
K & K Foodliner stopped selling meat from The Meat Shop about two weeks ago when the store began to suspect it was involved.
Krause said between 500 and 1,000 pounds of meat will likely be returned to the store at a cost of thousands of dollars.
“It should be 100 per cent preventable,” Mallett said of E. coli.
“Ultimately, we have to prove that there’s some negligence on the part of the company that’s involved, the meat processor that’s involved, the distribution process. And typically, in an E. coli situation where there’s been a widespread effect on the public, there’s been a failure on the part of the hygiene systems… that have been put in place.”
Mallett said he’s heard from 10 to 15 people already and isn’t ruling out the possibility that impacted businesses will reach out to him to join the legal action.
AHS and the CFIA are encouraging Albertans who have purchased meat from the Meat Shop at Pine Haven to check for the recalled products, which include lean ground pork, pork ribs and pork bellies. Even though the food may not smell spoiled, AHS said it must be either thrown out or returned to the store where it was purchased.
-With files from Phil Heidenreich