Histoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by inhaling the microscopic spores of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum, which can grow in poultry litter.

Chronic histoplasmosis affects the lungs and can be fatal.

Charles and Brenda Pool say poultry litter originating from the Rex Rains chicken farm under contract with Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. was growing the fungus when it was spread on the Pools’ pasture in 2003.

chicken-farm.jpgBreathing in those spores gave Charles the Histoplasmosis he suffers from today.  The Pools are now suing Pilgrim’s Pride in federal court for the Eastern District of Texas for $1 million.

The Pools originally sued Pilgrim’s Pride and Rains in July 2004 in District Court for San Augustine County, Texas.

The defendants asked that the case be moved to federal court because of Pilgrim’s Pride’s soon-to-be-ended bankruptcy status.  Pilgrim’s and Rains argue others are responsible for the Pools’ health.

The lawsuit involves a specific set of agreements and transactions that resulted in the poultry litter being applied to the Pools’ pasture.   Unlike the poultry litter trial still going on in Tulsa about river basin-wide impacts of such treatment, the Pool case is very specific.

A man named James Higgins agreed to mow the Pools’ pastureland in exchange for the hay.  He obtained the Pools’ permission to fertilize the pasture, but did not say specifically how the fertilization would occur.

Higgins hired B&K Trucking to provide 100 tons of poultry litter for the pasture.  B&K bought the litter from J.D. Litter Services, which collected the poultry manure from the Rains chicken farm.

Charles Pool acknowledges opening his gates for B&K, which dumped four loads of poultry litter on the property.

Rains says the chicken farm hired J.D. Litter Services to pick up and dispose of the chicken litter, but had nothing to do with where it went afterwards.  Pilgrim’s Pride says it does not dictate such details to its independent contractors.

“His injuries,” Pool’s attorneys write. “have caused him to suffer great and excruciating physical pain and mental anguish and he will in all reasonable probability continue to suffer from such physical pain and mental anguish for a long time, if not for the balance of his natural life.”  The 41-year old Pool suffers from both physical impairment and disfigurement.

As for Pilgrim’s Pride, the company is getting the green light to come out of bankruptcy with a $1.75 billion cash infusion made possible by the sale of 64 percent of its stock to JBS USA Holdings Inc., the American unit of the Brazilian-based JBS, SA.

With the $800 million cash sale of its stock to JBS, Pilgrim’s Pride expects to exit bankruptcy by year-end with full payment to creditors with “allowed claims.” That rarely happens in a bankruptcy proceeding.