As new salmonella scare makes headlines, local suits filed over previous peanut butter recall

Kelly Holleran Jan. 21, 2009, 6:00am

As new complaints of possibly salmonella contaminated peanut butter products has HEB pulling items from its shelves, a Beaumont woman is filing suit against the grocer over an earlier salmonella outbreak she claims made her ill two years ago.

Pamela Cole bought a jar of allegedly contaminated Peter Pan peanut butter on Feb. 7, 2007, from HEB Food Store at 3930 East Lucas Drive in Beaumont, and became ill after eating it, according to the complaint filed Jan. 12 in Jefferson County District Court.

Cole claims that HEB Food Stores and manufacturer Conagra knew about the contamination as early as August 2006, but did not recall the products until February 2007, the suit states.

Because she ate the peanut butter, Cole claims she suffered severe physical impairment, loss and extreme physical and mental pain and anguish.

She also incurred medical expenses, according to the complaint.

Both companies were negligent by manufacturing and dispensing an impure and unsafe product and by failing to timely recall the contaminated peanut butter, Cole alleges.

They also negligently failed to adequately warn consumers of the contaminated peanut butter, failed to manufacture a pure and safe product and failed to remove impure and unsafe peanut butter from the store shelves, according to the complaint.

Cole is seeking unspecified compensatory damages within the jurisdictional limits of Jefferson County Court, plus pre- and post-judgment interest at the highest legal rate possible, exemplary damages, costs and other relief to which she is entitled.

The current scare regarding tainted peanut butter has so far excluded jars of the popular spread, but surrounds products made with peanut butter paste, like peanut butter filled cracker snacks.

As of Jan. 21, the number of people sickened in the salmonella outbreak has now climbed to 485 in 43 states and Canada, with possibly six deaths, according to U.S. health officials.

According to, the first suit relating to the current outbreak was filed Jan. 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia by Gabrielle and Daryl Meunier, a Vermont couple whose 7-year-old son got sick on Nov. 25 with fever, vomiting and diarrhea. After being hospitalized, their son tested positive for contracting a strain of salmonella that is now linked to peanut butter. Meunier v. Peanut Corporation of America, No. 1:09-cv-00012 (M.D. Ga.).

Cole is represented by Brian D. Sutton, Joseph N. Jannise Jr., Stephanie H. Harris and Gregory A. Degeyter of Sutton and Jacobs in Beaumont.

This is the second suit filed by Sutton on behalf of a plaintiff from the 2007 peanut butter recall. The other suit, also filed Jan. 12, named Conagra and Market Basket as defendants.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham of the 58th District Court.

Case No. A183-012

Record editor Marilyn Tennissen contributed to this story.

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