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HomeMedico-LegalChild’s health declines as Tiger Brands listeriosis case drags on

Child’s health declines as Tiger Brands listeriosis case drags on

The parents of a baby who contracted listeriosis in her mother’s womb in 2017 are still awaiting finalisation of the class action case lodged against Tiger Brands more than four years ago, as the child suffers another health setback and their medical expenses continue to mount.

'Baby T' battled initially, but seemed to have recovered until recently, when doctors told her parents she has now lost control of her bladder and bowels.

They have already sold their home to survive because their medical aid doesn’t cover all costs, specifically the regular R2 700 scans the toddler needs, reports TimesLIVE.

Born in 2017‚ Baby T and her mother are among 1 060 South Africans who contracted listeriosis between January 2017 and July 2018 – 218 people died, mostly babies younger than four weeks, making it the world’s worst outbreak of the deadly food-borne disease.

When newborn Baby T’s head started swelling, she was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a common listeriosis symptom. By the time she was six-months-old, she’d had three operations to insert a shunt into the ventricles of her brain to prevent excess fluid from causing damage. Evidence showed her mother was fond of Mielie Kip chicken polony and other Enterprise products.

Through contact tracing, whole-genome sequencing and other scientific techniques, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) concluded Tiger Brands’ Polokwane meat-processing facility was the source of the outbreak and the company was forced to recall its polony products.

“The public health investigation of this outbreak was unprecedented in scope,” says attorney Bill Marler, who is assisting with the lawsuit brought by Richard Spoor and Associates and LHL Attorneys.

“Despite overwhelming scientific evidence to prove Tiger Brands mass produced and distributed contaminated polony that killed more than 200 people, led to the miscarriage and stillbirths of another 200 babies, and maimed hundreds more, the group refuses to accept responsibility. So many children, like Baby T, are denied the medical care and support they require.”

Asked how the company justified not providing Baby T’s family with interim relief by paying outstanding medical costs, Tiger Brands said it had yet to receive “a quantified claim, supported by medical reports and proof of loss or expenses for any individual claimant”, including this family.

It said: “This is despite ongoing efforts to secure such proof in those instances where the individual established a positive link to Tiger Brands’ products having caused injury.

“In addition… Tiger Brands’ legal team and Richard Spoor have recently reached agreement to jointly approach the NICD for access to their records, vital to a determination of the action.”

Responding, Spoor agreed that Tiger Brands had not received a “quantified claim supported by medical reports”, but it had received substantial documentation outlining the harm caused to Baby T and several hundred other clients.

“In March 2018, we wrote to Tiger Brands’ attorney requesting assistance, on a without prejudice basis, for Baby T. The company gave no indication of being willing to assist.”

Spoor said his firm had appointed three renowned world experts in the field, all of whom confirmed the reliability and correctness of the NICD report.

“Tiger and their attorneys have done their utmost to delay the proceedings, firstly by engaging in what the Supreme Court of Appeal labelled a fishing exercise to compel disclosure of confidential information from other food producers, in the hope there may be another possible source of the ST6 strain missed by the NICD in the course of its comprehensive, detailed investigation.

“That took two years and yielded nothing. The manufacturers have confirmed on affidavit that no ST6 strain was found in their products or facilities during the period.”

The current delay is due to what Spoor calls “an extremely burdensome request” to see the massive volume of data in the NICD’s possession recording the precise genomic sequencing of all the samples, sequenced by the NICD and other global scientific institutions.

“The NICD is having difficulty complying with that request due to resource and capacity restraints. (This is) holding up the proceedings and has done for almost a year,” Spoor said.

Then his firm proposed its and Tigers’ experts meet to agree on the minimum information necessary to obtain for the purposes of Tiger’s defence.

“Tiger’s attorneys have declined such a meeting,” Spoor said, so meanwhile, “interim assistance for victims on a without prejudice basis and without admission of liability would be gratefully received and we remain open to engage as to how that might be done”.

 

TimesLIVE article – Child’s health worsens, parents’ finances dwindle as Tiger Brands listeriosis case drags on (Restricted access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

SCA upholds listeriosis subpoena appeal against Tiger Brands

 

Tiger Brands’ listeriosis victims in legal limbo for 3 years

 

Tiger Brands facing another listeriosis legal challenge

 

SA’s listeriosis outbreak fuelled by HIV and lack of awareness

 

 

 

 

 

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