Listeria Cantaloupe Lawsuit Filed in Death of New Mexico Woman

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Marler Clark, the nation’s leading law firm dedicated to representing victims of foodborne illness, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family of a New Mexico woman who died after consuming cantaloupe contaminated with Listeria. This is the ninth Listeria lawsuit filed by Marler Clark against cantaloupe producer Jensen Farms and distributor Frontera Produce [1].

The lawsuit, #CV 2011-1074, filed in Lea County District Court is the first to include auditor Primus Labs and its subcontractor, Bio Food Safety, as additional defendants. According to the complaint, Bio Food Safety was hired by, “Jensen Farms or Frontera, or both of them, and Primus—to ensure that the facilities, premises, and procedures used by Jensen Farms in the production of cantaloupes met or exceeded applicable standards of care related to the production of cantaloupe. It was further the intent of these contracting parties to ensure that the food products that Jensen Farms produced, and that Frontera distributed, would be of high quality for consumers, and would not be contaminated with harmful pathogens, like Listeria.”

According to news reports, just days before one of world’s most deadly foodborne illness outbreaks began, Primus Labs and Bio Food Safety gave Jensen Farms a 96% score on its facilities audit. As the outbreak ensued, the FDA produced an inspection report of its own, citing problems with Jensen Farms’ processing steps including incorrect melon-cooling procedures and lack of chlorine in water used to wash cantaloupes.

“By putting their stamps of approval on what would turn out to be lethal cantaloupe, Jensen, Frontera, and their auditors are all partially responsible for failing to prevent the death of my client,” said Wilcox family attorney William Marler. “Primus and Bio Food Safety in particular had a duty to provide an accurate food safety assessment of Jensen Farms – an assessment that was supposed to represent reality. But the only reality here is 30 dead and one hundred sick.”

The lawsuit alleges that 96-year-old Florence Wilcox lived independently and actively in Hobbs, New Mexico before becoming ill. In the weeks preceding her illness, Ms. Wilcox purchased and consumed cantaloupe produced and sold by Jensen Farms and Frontera Produce. She was taken to a local hospital after becoming ill on September 8. Her condition worsened and she was airlifted to Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas. Ms. Wilcox died on September 15 of meningitis brought on by Listeria infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has linked at least 139 Listeria illnesses, including 29 deaths, and one miscarriage to consumption of Jensen Farms cantaloupe.

MARLER CLARK is the nation’s leading law firm dedicated to representing victims of foodborne illness outbreaks. The firm’s food poisoning lawyers have unmatched experience representing victims of outbreaks across the country and have recovered over $600,000,000 for clients. For more information or, if you are a member of the media and would like a copy of the complaint, please contact Cody Moore at or 206-407-2200.

[1] Colorado El Paso County District Court # 2011CV5007; Colorado Arapahoe County District Court # 2011CV1891; Texas Brazoria County District Court #65009; Canadian County District Court #CJ-2011-709; U.S. District Court Maryland #1:11-CV-2810; Federal District Court Oklahoma #11-348SPS; Missouri District Court #4:11-cv-04280-FJG; Dallas County District Court #DC11-13866.