Jack in the Box E. coli
The shareholder case was settled for $12 million, and the discovery work done by Hagens Berman helped other personal injury lawyers recover more than $100 million in wrongful death and civil damages from Foodmaker.
The Jack in the Box case came to public attention when the Washington Department of Health began investigating cases of E. coli 0157:H7 bacterium infections and related complications in a Seattle hospital. The investigation determined that the patients had all eaten hamburgers from fast-food chain, Jack in the Box, a Foodmaker Inc. company.
Hagens Berman’s co-founder and managing partner, Steve Berman, asserted that Foodmaker misled investors by falsely claiming its food was top-quality, its management was sound, and that its methods were high for the industry. The shareholder case was settled for $12 million, and the discovery work done by Hagens Berman helped other personal injury lawyers recover more than $100 million in wrongful death and civil damages from Foodmaker.
Jack in the Box issued a recall, but much of the hamburger had already been consumed. As a result of the consumption of the contaminated hamburgers, four children died, 171 consumers were hospitalized and more than 700 consumers – most in Washington – had devastating bacterium symptoms.
Further investigation revealed that Foodmaker was not complying with the Washington Department of Health standard that the beef be cooked at 155 degrees. Instead, Jack in the Box cooked the patties at a lower, dangerous temperature claiming that the higher temperature made the hamburgers too tough. Compounding the widespread negligence by Foodmaker and Jack in the Box were documents showing that Foodmaker had been warned about its uncooked beef by local health departments and also by their own employees.
The stockholders and ill consumers brought lawsuits against Jack in the Box and Foodmaker, and the case served as an impetus for the founding of Hagens Berman in 1993. Hagens Berman served as co-lead counsel in stockholder litigation against Foodmaker after the company’s stock dropped more than 30 percent after the Jack in the Box food poisoning outbreak. The Securities and Exchange Commission temporarily suspended trading of Foodmaker stock.
When Berman’s prior law firm refused to hold Jack in the Box responsible, Berman and several partners and associates left to form Hagens Berman. Berman wanted to make sure sick children and other consumers who couldn’t fight for themselves would have a way to hold corporations accountable for improper cost-cutting, failure to follow scientific and government regulations and many acts of fraud.
Since the founding of Hagens Berman, the Seattle-based law firm has continued in its original, founding impetus – to help the less fortunate by holding organizations accountable for illegal misconduct. Hagens Berman has won and settled numerous landmark class-action and whistleblower lawsuits, fighting for the rights of consumers, investors, employees and others. Through the years, the firm has originated many legal theories and techniques in the ongoing pursuit of plaintiffs’ protection.
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