The High Court in Johannesburg has ruled that a class action lawsuit against Tiger Brands representing applicants affected by this year’s listeriosis outbreak can proceed, Fin24 has reported.
According to Thamsanqa Malusi of Richard Spoor Inc. Attorneys, the lawsuit will automatically include all those affected by listeriosis in the manner defined in the lawsuit’s application, unless they choose to opt out before the case is heard, which should be in March next year.
There are four categories for those included in the lawsuit: people who contracted the disease and survived, those who lost a breadwinner to the disease, those supporting someone who contracted it, and children who contracted the sickness while their parents were still pregnant with them.
The Citizen reported in March that preparations for the lawsuit had begun. The attorneys representing those affected said they were so confident of success they would conduct the case pro bono.
Richard Spoor Incorporated Attorneys said they had a “sufficient number” of victims to pursue a class action case in order to hold Tiger Brands accountable for the outbreak, that affected hundreds of consumers and led to 180 deaths.
The law firm has teamed up with Marler Clark, a US food safety firm, and expressed confidence it had strong evidence and experience to win the multimillion-rand case against Tiger Brands.
Human rights lawyer Richard Spoor said: “We have no intention of recovering the money from our clients.
“We will litigate on our own expense and recover the money from Tiger Brands.”
According to Spoor, a class action case allows for the victims to be represented by a strong team of advocates and one record file of evidence that will not only strengthen the case, but enable the firm to do “a better job”.
“The big advantage about class cases is that it will benefit everyone involved,” said Spoor.
“This is especially true for people with smaller cases who are usually not given much attention because their cases are deemed much smaller in comparison to other cases dealing with deaths or diseases caused by the defendant.
READ MORE: No listeria repeat, vows Tiger Brands
“In this case, people with smaller cases benefit more because they get the opportunity to get their justice as well.”
In May, Tiger Brands acknowledged the company’s role in the listeriosis outbreak and vowed to never allow such a crisis to happen again.
This came after a report released by the department of health on Thursday confirming the presence of listeria monocytogenes in Enterprise and Rainbow Foods from the Polokwane factory in Limpopo. The release of the report came after swabs were taken at the facility earlier this month.
Lawrence MacDougall, Tiger Brands’ chief executive officer, said: “The health and safety of our customers is our number one priority. I am deeply concerned by the detection of LST6 in our factory.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Additional reporting by Chisom Jenniffer Okoye)