key sheetz salmonella case settled

Chain again praised for the way it handled the outbreak; its suit against tomato supplier Coronet is still pending.

A key lawsuit filed against Sheetz convenience stores over salmonella-tainted tomatoes was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

The suit was brought by Altoona resident Max Christian Anslinger, one of more than 400 people sickened by tomatoes sold on sandwiches and other foods at Sheetz stores in Pennsylvania and eight other states in 2004, according to the Altoona (Pa.) Mirror

. Anslinger’s case was notable because it was the vehicle for the complicated discovery process — the pretrial exchange of evidence — used to determine where the tomatoes originated, the report said.

The settlement terms are confidential, according to Sheetz attorney Gary Zimmerman and Marler, who represented more than 130 of the sickened customers.

In August, Blair County Judge Jolene Kopriva concluded that Altoona-based Sheetz and its vegetable wholesaler, Coronet Foods, could not pinpoint where the tainted tomatoes originated. So, Kopriva dismissed claims brought by Anslinger and other customers against two tomato suppliers and six farms or other businesses that may have grown the tomatoes.

Sheetz is appealing Kopriva’s ruling to state Superior Court. If the court overturns it, Sheetz and Coronet could try to recoup their losses from other upstream tomato suppliers.

Sheetz, meanwhile, still has a lawsuit pending against Wheeling, W.Va.-based Coronet. Sheetz wants to be reimbursed for its costs in defending and settling hundreds of lawsuits, lost profits and other damages, Zimmerman said.

Now that Anslinger’s claim is settled against Sheetz, Zimmerman said only 10 customer claims remain, eight in Pennsylvania and two in Maryland.

“In 15 years of doing these food cases, I thought the way Sheetz handled taking care of the clients was better, frankly, than any other company I’ve ever dealt with,” Marler said. “Not that they paid more money, but they stepped up quickly and took care of their customers.”

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