A couple sued ConAgra Foods Inc. on Friday over a salmonella outbreak linked to its peanut butter, and their attorney predicted more suits would follow.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Kansas City by Susanna and Brian Cox of St. Joseph. It claims that Susanna Cox and the couple's two children became ill in October after eating Great Value Peanut Butter, made by ConAgra. The two children required urgent medical treatment, according to the lawsuit.
Seattle-based attorney William Marler, whose firm handles many cases of food-borne illness, said the lawsuit is the first in the outbreak, which has sickened nearly 300 people in 39 states since August. No deaths have been reported.
Also Friday, Marler filed another lawsuit in federal court in Rochester, N.Y., on behalf of a New York couple and their child. The lawsuit said the father and 2-year-old son became severely ill over the last week after eating sandwiches with Peter Pan peanut butter.
A Texas couple also filed a lawsuit Friday against ConAgra in Texas, saying their 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son got sick after eating Peter Pan peanut butter.
The lawsuit seeks damages for medical bills, pain and suffering, and caps the damages at $75,000 for each child, their lawyer said.
The other two lawsuits sought unspecified damages.
The possible link to tainted peanut butter became known Wednesday when Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra and the Food and Drug Administration announced a product recall.
Federal health investigators have said they strongly suspect Peter Pan peanut butter and certain batches of Wal-Mart's Great Value house brand, both manufactured by ConAgra.
ConAgra spokesman Chris Kircher declined to comment on specifics of the Missouri lawsuit, but added, ''We take any consumer concern over the recall very seriously, because consumer safety is our top priority.''
Company spokeswoman Melissa Baron said ConAgra had not yet received the Texas lawsuit and could not comment on it either.
Marler said Friday that 500 people had contacted his law firm this week. He said he plans to file additional cases in the next few days and then move to consolidate them.
Salmonella sickens about 40,000 people a year in the U.S. and kills about 600. It can cause diarrhea, fever, dehydration, abdominal pain and vomiting. The only known salmonella outbreak in peanut butter _ in Australia during the mid-1990s _ was blamed on unsanitary plant conditions.
___ On the Net: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/ ConAgra Inc.: http://www.conagrafoods.com