Federal appeals court ruling favors Cargill

by Erica Shaffer
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OMAHA – The US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit upheld the verdict of a federal jury that awarded Cargill $9 million in a breach of contract lawsuit against Greater Omaha Packing Co., according to court documents.

“We are gratified with the US 8th Circuit Court’s decision in favor of Cargill and we believe justice has been served,” the company said in a statement to MEAT+POULTRY. “We work hard every day to ensure the risk of food borne illness is minimized from the meat we produce.  We also expect those who supply us with beef to meet the same high standards we must meet for the beef we produce.”

Cargill sued Greater Omaha Packing in August 2011 for supplying beef tainted with E. coli O157:H7 to Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. Cargill alleged that Omaha Packing breached its contract by selling the tainted beef which sickened dozens of people, including four children. Court documents state that Cargill had entered into settlement agreements related to personal injuries caused by contaminated beef patties and paid $25,270,769. Cargill also incurred $548,605 in costs related to the recall of approximately 845,000 lbs. of beef.

In 2014, a federal jury in Omaha found in favor of Cargill and awarded the company $9 million. Greater Omaha Packing filed a counterclaim for tortious interference with its business relationships. This counterclaim was dismissed.

In its appeal of the jury verdict, Greater Omaha Packing argued that the district court erred in admitting certain evidence and that the jury was given improper instructions among other claims.

The three-judge panel upheld the federal jury’s verdict. Among its findings: “…  Greater Omaha has not shown that it suffered any prejudice from the instructions as given.

“The central issue in this litigation has always been whether Greater Omaha sold and shipped contaminated raw material to Cargill,” the panel wrote, “not whether its doing so constituted a breach.”

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