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Sheetz & Coronet Settle Ahead of Trial

Litigation after an outbreak of foodborne illnesses is almost always involves lengthy and drawn out affairs.

Five years ago, there were 564 confirmed cases of Salmonella in several states traced to the consumption of contaminated Roma tomatoes.  Sheetz Convenience Stores sold many of the tomatoes at the retail level.

Tyrone, PA resident Max Christian Anslinger became the first of many of the individuals who got sick from the tomatoes to sue Sheetz Convenience Stores and its Roma supplier, Wheeling, WV-based Coronet Foods.

Sheetz resolved claims with victims of the tomato-based Salmonella outbreak fairly quickly.  It then turned around and sued its tomato supplier, Coronet Foods.

That case was scheduled to go to trial next week, but on the eve of that coming courtroom battle, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.   The outbreak cost Sheetz and its insurers about $11 million.

Coronet Foods had admitted liability in providing the Salmonella-contaminated tomatoes to Sheetz stores in Pennsylvania and adjoining states in July 2004.

Sheetz has 330 locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, and people got sick from the Salmonella contaminated tomatoes in all of those states.

Blair County Judge Jolene G. Kopriva dismissed tomato growers from the lawsuit earlier.  Sheetz might appeal that decision now that it has a settlement with Coronet.

That means not all the litigation is over involving the five-year-old outbreak.

Salmonella outbreaks linked to raw tomatoes have been fairly common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates Salmonella poisoning from raw tomatoes has sickened as many as 79,000 people in 12 multi-state outbreaks since 1990.

The 57-year-old Sheetz is a privately held family company that did $4.4 billion in sales last year and employs 11,500.  Coronet Foods shut its doors and went into bankruptcy following the outbreak.

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