In the late 1980s, Quality Pork assumed Hormel Foods' slaughterhouse operations and supplies pork to Hormel's Austin processing plant.
Progressive inflammatory neuropathy, which was caused by inhalation of aerosolized pig-brain proteins, was the diagnosis made by the Mayo Clinic. Stricken plant workers were working near an air-compression system that blows brains out of pigs' heads. Quality Pork has since stopped the compression-based brain extraction.
Affirming a decision made in Mower County District Court, the appeals court ruled against the company’s claim it needed to pay only one $600,000 insurance deductible for the 12 injured workers – and not $600,000 per worker. However, the district court and appeals court both agreed if there is a disease, then the deductible is applied for each person for each disease.
Therefore in theory, the processor would then be liable to pay $7.2 million in deductibles. However, the actual amount may be less because the extent of the injuries suffered by each worker was different, and their medical care costs could be different as well.
At this point, the company is considering petitioning the Minnesota Supreme Court to hear an appeal, said an Austin lawyer who serves as Quality Pork's general counsel.