Wawona Dismissed from Listeria Case in New Jersey

February 12, 2018

NEWARK, February 12, 2018 – Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young LLP secured summary judgment in a case involving listeria poisoning from allegedly contaminated peaches. Roy Viola and Manuel Guevara represented the defendant, Wawona Packing Company, a producer and distributor of fruit with more than 9,000 acres of farmland in California.

In Picciano v. Wawona Packaging, plaintiff contended he consumed contaminated peaches that caused listeria poisoning, a lengthy hospitalization and permanent damages. In the summer of 2014, Wawona issued a recall after listeria was found in several peaches it distributed. The company issued a recall in an abundance of caution. Plaintiff claims to have eaten peaches a week prior to hospitalization, but never had the peaches tested for listeria. Additionally, he had a listeriosis test in the hospital that was negative. Added to this, plaintiff had a prior history of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including a flare-up two months before the hospitalization. The IBS symptoms were very similar to those alleged in the summer incident. At his deposition, plaintiff was unable to list a single other food item he consumed in the two weeks prior to the alleged illness, depriving the defendants of an opportunity to discover potential alternative causes.

Judge Patrick Bartels, Superior Court Judge, Essex County, determined that Wawona (and Costco, the alleged seller of the peaches who filed a cross-motion) were entitled to full dismissal on all claims. He noted that plaintiff not only failed to establish listeria poisoning, his testing was negative. Plaintiff could not show that he ate a contaminated product sold by the defendants and therefore could not establish a viable case that should be submitted to a jury.

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