U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands has ordered Hartford Insurance to produce tape recordings and other documents involving the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America being sought by government attorneys within 14 days. Sands signed the order August 2.
As a result, Hartford Insurance, which wrote liability and property insurance for PCA, must give government attorneys copies of tape recordings and other documents involving four former executives of the companies now charged with a total of 76 federal felony counts. During grand jury proceedings, Hartford gave up certain documents to the government but declined to hand over others. The insurance giant and the government have exchanged letters on the issue for almost two years. The judge’s order finally ends the dispute in the government’s favor.
“Hartford interprets its contract to require it to asset privileges on behalf of its insureds,” Sands said. But the judge found that Stewart Parnell and Daniel Kilbore, the two PCA executives who dealt with Hartford Insurance, did not have any independent privileges over the disputed materials.
The materials sought by government attorneys were originally the target of a government subpoena issued by the grand jury on Jan. 19, 2012. Certain tape recordings and documents were withheld by Hartford attorneys who claimed they fell under the protection of attorney-client privilege or protected work product. PCA had previously waived attorney-client and work product privileges during its bankruptcy proceedings.
The same grand jury that issued the subpoena indicted the four former PCA executives on charges stemming from the 2008-09 Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak that killed nine people and sickened 700. It also prompted one of the most costly recalls in history, involving almost 4,000 products containing PCA peanut butter and/or paste as an ingredient.
The four executives, including Parnell, the company’s former chief executive, are scheduled to face a jury trial beginning Oct. 7.© Food Safety News