Date: Apr 25, 2017
San Francisco, CA— On Friday, April 14, 2017, a federal court jury in Santa Ana, California, handed down a special verdict in favor of Keller and Heckman’s client, Townsend Farms, Inc., awarding them compensatory and punitive damages totaling 7.5 million dollars against Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Company, a Turkish supplier of frozen pomegranate seeds (knowns as “arils”). The jury determined that the arils Goknur supplied to Townsend Farms was the source of a 2013 Hepatitis A virus outbreak associated with Townsend Farms’ frozen five berry blend distributed in Costco stores in the western U.S.
Townsend Farms initially contacted Leslie Krasny, a Partner in Keller and Heckman’s Food and Drug Practice in May 2013, given the firm’s reputation for successfully handling recalls. At that time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had used preliminary epidemiological evidence to identify Townsend Farm’s “Organic Antioxidant Blend” as the likely source of the outbreak. As the evidence mounted, FDA and the Centers for Disease Control concluded that the origin of the virus was a single contaminated lot of Goknur pomegranate arils. Based on that information, Townsend Farms and another berry manufacturer using Goknur arils initiated voluntary recalls and shortly thereafter the outbreak ended. Subsequently, Keller and Heckman Partner Arthur S. Garrett III, a specialist in food insurance issues, successfully secured the maximum insurance possible for Townsend Farms from multiple carriers.
Then Keller and Heckman’s Litigation Group stepped in, and together with Townsend Farms’ outside general counsel, William E. Gaar, a Partner at Buckley Law P.C. in Oregon, pursued litigation claims against Goknur through to the successful verdict. Mr. Gaar’s deep client knowledge and extensive jury trial experience in his own right were invaluable to this success.
“When Townsend Farms contacted me regarding the ongoing illness outbreak, I informed them that Keller and Heckman could assist with product recall issues, insurance claims, and litigation for supplier liability.” says Krasny, “Keller and Heckman is a leader in food law, and our practice groups coordinate closely on such matters.”
“My primary concern was to ensure that our client, Townsend Farms, was protected against any further adverse claims and had as much indemnity as possible for its losses and litigation exposure by securing the complete gamut of insurance that situations such as these call for,” stated Garrett in reference to the initial stages of representing the company.
Keller and Heckman's nationally-recognized litigation practice is led by acclaimed trial counsel. The firm’s lawyers, many of whom also have scientific and technical backgrounds, have worked in private industry, at state and federal agencies, at consulting firms, and in academia. The firm successfully litigates cases across the United States before federal and state courts for domestic and international companies from a wide range of industries. The interests represented in those cases include advertising and unfair competition, product liability defense, as well as commercial, food and drug, environmental and toxic tort litigation.
About Keller and Heckman
Keller and Heckman has a broad practice in the areas of regulatory law, litigation, and business transactions, serving both domestic and international clients. With offices in Washington, D.C., Brussels, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Paris the firm helps the world's most vital businesses achieve their objectives. A pioneer in the use of interdisciplinary approaches to problem-solving, Keller and Heckman has had an in-house scientific staff since 1971 that works closely with the firm's attorneys on matters of technical complexity.
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