Suing For Peanuts

Peanut company behind salmonella outbreak is client of Connecticut insurer

The Hartford insurance company is suing for peanuts, well actually over peanuts.

And what’s at stake could amount to a whole lot of cash if the company, better known as Hartford Casualty Insurance Co., is required to pay claims filed by victims of a nationwide salmonella outbreak.

The Hartford filed suit Tuesday against Peanut Corp. of America in federal court in Lynchburg, Virginia, where the company is based.

Peanut Corp.'s plant in Blakely, Ga., has been identified as the sole source of the salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 550 people, eight of whom have died.

Many products have been recalled and those recalls are posted on the FDA Web site.

The lawsuits are starting against the peanut company and Hartford Casualty Insurance wants the court to determine the extent of its obligation to Peanut Corp and whether terms of the company's policy exclude coverage for salmonella claims.

The insurer cited two lawsuits filed by individuals against Peanut Corp. of America and claims by food product manufacturers for expenses related to a nationwide recall of peanut butter, paste and other products sold by the company. It said it expected Peanut Corp. to receive a number of additional claims.

Peanut Corp. of America officials were not immediately available for comment.

A criminal investigation is under way.

Peanut Corp. has denied any wrongdoing and said Wednesday that its Blakely plant had received regular visits and inspections from state and federal authorities in 2008.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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