Minneapolis law firm Blackwell Burke P.A. successfully defended international food manufacturer ConAgra Foods Inc. in the nation’s first two consumer product liability cases brought to trial where consumers claimed lung disease from exposure to microwave popcorn vapors. Although so-called “popcorn lung” suits have resulted in significant verdicts and settlements on behalf of industrial workers, these defense victories in consumer cases deliver a one-two punch against similar cases filed across the country.
After a month-long trial in the plaintiffs’ counsel’s home court in Jackson County, Missouri, a jury in the case of Khoury v. ConAgra Foods found in favor of ConAgra Foods on all claims. This was the first consumer case to reach a jury. Firm founder Jerry Blackwell served as lead trial counsel and partner Corey Gordon was second chair.
Just weeks earlier, a Washington federal district court judge rendered a 70-page opinion in Newkirk v. ConAgra Foods that awarded summary judgment and dismissed all claims in favor of ConAgra Foods on June 24, 2010. Gordon argued in a five-hour Daubert hearing that plaintiffs’ expert witnesses had not applied valid scientific methodology in their efforts to link microwave popcorn use to chronic lung disease. The court agreed. Gordon successfully refuted a primary argument that consumer exposure to popcorn additives was comparable to industrial-level exposure. This case is currently on appeal.
Blackwell Burke’s extensive experience with food safety issues, their understanding of the science of food production and airtight case discovery supported their success on behalf of ConAgra. The firm continues to represent ConAgra in several pending cases as national coordinating counsel for consumer microwave popcorn litigation.
The attorneys of Blackwell Burke’s Food Safety Group represent major food manufacturers — including General Mills as national litigation counsel — as well as food distributors, retailers, and restaurants. Areas of practice include litigation, regulatory and administrative actions, third-party discovery issues, and other legal matters. They have successfully represented institutional clients in claims involving food borne illnesses (including E. coli and salmonella), ingredients, product recalls, adulteration and contamination, packaging, product warnings and instructions, processing procedures, kill steps, and other food safety issues. The firm also has experience working with issues involving Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) matters.
For more information about Blackwell Burke P.A. or these cases, contact Kandy Branch at 612-343-3235.