On Wednesday, Tiger Brands said that it will battle a class action lawsuit filed against it. The food production leader allegedly played a significant role in the world’s greatest ever recorded listeria outbreak.
Listeria is an infection caused by bacteria. The listeria outbreak in South Africa, last year, killed over 200 people. Investigations revealed the source of the epidemic to be a factory run by a Tiger Brands subsidiary, Enterprise Foods.
Tiger brands confirmed that it had been served with the court summons regarding the class action lawsuit, which has been speculated for some time.
“The company intends to defend the class action,” the company said in a statement, adding that it intends to follow the due legal process. It will provide more updates as the case progresses.
Tiger Brands shares had gone down to 0.9% as at 0811 GMT.
The papers served to the company did not reveal the amount of compensation being claimed. The first stage of a class action case is to identify liability, not damages. After a ruling on liability, the next court hearing will be concerned with damages.
The plaintiffs, in this case, are seeking compensation as per the Consumer Protection Act. They are also suing for exemplary, punitive, or constitutional damages, which, according to the defendant, are not covered in the South African constitution.
The company has a product liability insurance cover. However, the insurance policy does not cover exemplary and punitive damages. These damages were included in the lawsuit to punish the company for its reckless conduct and should the court rule in favor of the plaintiff regarding these damages, it will be a lesson to Tiger Brands and other companies.
The listeria infection causes flu-like symptoms, diarrhea and nausea. It also causes infections of the blood and brain. It is more severe in newborns, pregnant women, and the elderly – people with weak immunity.