The Law Group, Ltd. has filed the first US-nationwide class-action lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, against Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms regarding salmonella contaminated eggs.
The lawsuit was filed a day following revelations that lab tests found hundreds of cases of salmonella contamination at the Iowa farm in a nearly two-year period before the outbreak that prompted the largest recall of eggs in US history this summer.
In a letter to the owner of Wright County Egg, Austin "Jack" DeCoster, leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said tests confirmed 426 cases of salmonella contamination between September 2008 and the past July, and 73 that were "potentially" positive for the strain of the disease involved in this year's outbreak.
The committee's leaders asked DeCoster to explain why those test reports weren't included in material the company provided to Congress so far, and demanded that the company produce "all documents relating to your response to the test results".
"Despite the committee's specific request, your response on Sept. 11, 2010, did not include the 73 potentially positive results for Salmonella enteritidis," Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and investigations subcommittee chairman Bart Stupak wrote.
"It also did not show whether Wright County Egg took appropriate steps to protect the public after receiving the positive test results."
Federal investigators reported finding salmonella bacteria in chicken feed and in barn and walkway areas at the farms, as well as rodents, piles of manure, uncaged birds and flies too numerous to count, the FDA said.
Food and Drug Administration inspectors reported in August that neither Wright County nor Hillandale fully followed their plans to prevent Salmonella enteritidis.
The lawsuit accuses both farms of numerous egregious safety violations including the failure to comply with federal and state laws, including the Egg Safety rule, which effectively created an environment allowing Salmonella enteriditis to infect producing hens.