Class action suit against XL Foods progressing

An Alberta judge has certified a $10 million class action lawsuit against XL Foods.

The beef processing company in Brooks, Alta., was involved in Canada’s largest meat recall last year when E. coli O157: H7 contamination sickened 18 people across Canada.

About 4,000 tonnes of beef were recalled.

Court of Queen’s Bench associate chief justice John Rooke certified the class action lawsuit in a hearing Oct. 8. This allows those suing the company to do so as a group.

More than 200 plaintiffs have joined the lawsuit, said lawyer Richard Mallett of the Edmonton firm James H. Brown and Associates.

People have come forward claiming they were sickened after eating beef products from XL.

They had to take time off work due to illness or want compensation for meat they had to throw out.

“It is up to the courts to determine what kind of proof is needed,” Mallett said.

He said the lawsuit is seeking accountability for what happened.

“A class action allows an individual who might not have the resources or the courage to be able go up against a large corporation. It allows individual consumers to come together as a class and support each other,” he said.

“It makes sure the companies involved follow the rules and do all they can to ensure the safety of consumers at the other end.”

JBS Canada Inc. eventually bought the processor and has implemented new food safety measures.

Mallett would not speculate on what forms of compensation might be granted if the case is won.

“We are still confident there is going to be recovery, but I can’t get into the details on it. Some of that would be confidential,” he said.

The case may not get to court until 2015.

Public notice will be published in Canada and the United States and covers those who were sickened or had to throw meat away.

An independent inquiry into the XL affair found flaws in the company’s processes and said there were inadequate responses by the processor and Canadian Food Inspection Agency staff when E. coli contamination was detected in the plant.

XL has issued a third party notice against the agency, alleging it was also at fault for what happened.

Lawsuits against food companies are more common in the United States, but a class action against Maple Leaf Foods due to listeria contamination was successfully completed.

It was the largest case of its kind in Canada, said Mallett.

The company agreed to pay up to $27 million to settle class action lawsuits over the outbreak, which was linked to 20 deaths across the country.

Maple Leaf said it would assume full responsibility for what happened in 2008.

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