Texas man takes steps to file billion dollar suit over wife's swine flu death

Marilyn Tennissen May 21, 2009, 6:58am

The husband of the first U.S. resident to die from swine flu has taken the first steps towards a billion dollar wrongful death suit against the American co-owners of the Mexican pig farm where the outbreak is believed to have originated.

Harlingen resident Steven Trunnell filed a petition May 11 in Cameron County to conduct discovery against Smithfield Foods Inc., doing business as Granjas Carroll de Mexico, to determine if the operators of the pig farm may be held accountable for his wife's death.

Steven Trunnell's wife Judy was eight months pregnant when she developed flu-like symptoms. After she slipped into a coma, doctors were able to deliver her baby girl by Caesarean section, but were unable to save 33-year-old Judy Trunnell. She died on May 5.

Her husband claims she was in perfect health before contracting the N1H1 flu. State health officials, however, have reported that Judy Trunnell had a chronic respiratory condition.

Steven Trunnell is seeking a court order that would authorize depositions, or oral examinations, of company officials, employees and agents to investigate wrongful death claims against Smithfield Foods Inc.

If there is enough evidence found to justify the wrongful death claims made against Smithfield Foods, Steven Trunnell could seek a wrongful death claim and survival damages of up to $1 billion, the petition states.

He could also try to bring a class action lawsuit against the company, which could call for Smithfield Foods to cease and "desist all misconduct related to the unsanitary and unsafe operations of its gargantuan pig farm operation in Mexico."

Trunnell is being represented by Austin-based attorneys Marc G. Rosenthal and J. Lynn Watson.

The case has been assigned to the 357th state District Court in Cameron County.

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