How to build case against supplier over listeriosis

Human rights lawyer Richard Spoor is gearing for a fight with Tiger Brands over the listeriosis scandal that has so far claimed 183 lives.

Spoor believes Tiger Brands‚ one of the country’s largest food manufacturers, should be held accountable for failing to protect its consumers against the deadly disease.

The class action lawsuit could be the first under the 2011 Consumer Protection Act.

Consumer Protection Act lawyer Paul Esselaar gave advice to victims on how to build a case against Tiger Brands.

  • It’s a first: This would be the very first class action lawsuit under the Consumer Protection Act‚ which became law in 2009.

Esselaar knows of no other class action under this act.

It is unique in that consumers do not have to prove that the company that sold them the goods was negligent in making harmful goods. This makes it easier for consumers.

  • Act fast: Consumers should be as quick as possible to secure evidence that they bought polony, as they need to prove they were harmed by a Tiger Brands product, or prove where they bought it if they are going after a retailer who sold it to them.
  • Tiger Brands may not be only one in the dock:

Any class action suit would use Section 61 of the Consumer Protection Act‚ which makes any supplier of the goods liable‚ as long as the consumer can prove that they were harmed by the goods sold by the suppliers.

This means large retailers – like Pick n Pay or Shoprite – who sold polony can face action, not just the manufacturers of cold meats.

  • It is going to be tough to prove: Esselaar said the key issue right now for consumers was to do whatever they could to find and preserve evidence.

“While the Consumer Protection Act does not require a consumer to prove negligence‚ it does require the consumer to prove causation.

“What this means is that the consumer must find as much evidence about their case as possible.

“It would be best to get evidence as quickly as you can‚” Esselaar said.

  • Lawyers on the side of big guys: If he was representing the retailers or producers, Esselaar said, his focus would be to show that the consumer could not prove where they bought the product or that they ate the product‚ making them ill.

“Essentially what attorneys acting for the suppliers will argue is that it is impossible to prove that the case of listerosis started at their client’s shop.”

  • It could take a very long time: The only way a lengthy case could be avoided is for the retailers and suppliers to agree to the consumers’ initial demands‚ which are bound to be high.

Spoor’s first class action lawsuit – taking on large mining companies on behalf of gold miners who developed silicosis – has been going on for two years.

If a settlement is not reached this year‚ it could take up to 15 years. – TimesLIVE

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