Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and thank you for making this blog such a success — and so much fun. We had over a million hits in the first year and continue to grow each month. I hope that you have a litigation free holiday. In celebration, I give you the annual Turkey Tort below and a video of the Palin Turkey slaughter.
SAMSON v. REISING
62 Wis. 2d 698 (1974)
The underlying facts show that on Tuesday, February 6, 1968, Pearl Samson attended a luncheon, which was put on by the Wauwatosa High School Band Mothers Association (an organization organized to give support to the high school band) at the Wauwatosa Trinity Episcopal Church. Pearl Samson paid $ 1.25 and ate a luncheon consisting of turkey salad and dessert. On Wednesday evening she became nauseated. She was unable to work on Thursday and Friday.
The symptoms subsided, and she returned to work on Monday, February 12th. A few days later, however, she again was obliged to miss work because of her illness. After these symptoms recurred every few days, she visited her doctor, who was unable to help her, and in the nine-month period following the luncheon she lost 22 pounds and periodically suffered from diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and stomach pain. Eventually she was referred to a specialist, who determined that Pearl Samson’s condition was the result of salmonella food poisoning and that, as a consequence, she suffered a deficiency of the lactase enzyme in her intestinal tract.
This enzyme is necessary to properly digest foods with a lactose base, such as milk and dairy products. She claims that her illness recurs whenever she ingests foods which contain milk products. There was testimony that she found it impossible to be sure that the food she ate contained no such products and that she became severely ill sometimes twice a month. Her physician testified that this condition is permanent.
There is evidence that the turkey salad eaten at the luncheon was contaminated with salmonella bacteria. Dorothy G. Wood, one of the defendants, testified that she had taken some of the leftover salad home for her family to eat. Her family ate some of that salad and had no ill effects. When she received reports that some of the guests at the luncheon had become ill, she notified the chief sanitarian of the Wauwatosa Health Department. He submitted the sample of the remaining salad to the Milwaukee Food Laboratory. The report from the laboratory indicated the presence of the salmonella bacteria.
There was testimony by Dorothy G. Wood that she and Marjorie E. Borror were co-chairmen in charge of the luncheon, that approximately a month before the luncheon they purchased nine frozen turkeys from Kohl’s and had them stored in Kohl’s freezer until they were needed. Before the date of the luncheon, Dorothy Wood picked up the frozen turkeys and delivered them to other members of the luncheon committee. She named eight members of the committee to whom she delivered the turkeys to be cooked in their own homes. She stated that she delivered the turkeys to Margarette H. Hoffman, Charlotte G. Soleski, Violet E. Gullicksen, Betty Randa, Grace A. Kerler, Marjorie E. Borror, Ruth E. Johnson, Jane Frances, and one other. Each of these persons are defendants in the instant lawsuit. In addition, Audrey Riesing and Phillis Gill, together with Dorothy Wood, are named as defendants.
Dorothy Wood stated that she did not cook a turkey, but that nine ladies, one of whom she could not name, cooked them sometime between the day she delivered the turkeys and the afternoon of February 5, 1968, when the ladies brought the cooked turkeys to the Trinity Episcopal Church kitchen. The turkey salad was prepared in the Trinity Episcopal Church kitchen.
After the salad was prepared, it was taken to a refrigerator located at the Methodist Church. The turkey salad was returned to the Trinity Episcopal Church at 10 a. m. on Tuesday, February 6th. The salad received no refrigeration from the time it was taken from the Methodist Church. Prior to the time of serving, the turkey salad was held in large containers, which had been obtained from the Methodist Church. Dorothy Wood testified that the church kitchen in which the salad was prepared was “clean.”
At trial, Joseph D. Gorski, the chief sanitarian for the Wauwatosa Health Department, testified that salmonella is a bacteria common to the intestinal tracts of fowl. He said that food containing salmonella bacteria can be rendered safe for eating by exposure to heat and that a meat temperature of 146 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes or 161 degrees for thirty seconds would kill the organism. Properly cooking a turkey would render it free from salmonella bacteria.
However, even though a turkey were properly cooked, it could be contaminated if it came in contact with utensils or other objects which touched the raw contaminated turkey. Gary V. Doern, a bacteriologist, also testified that some individuals are unknowing carriers of the salmonella bacteria and can contaminate food products by touching them.
. . . In this case nine turkeys were cooked, each by one of nine defendants, but not all of the 11 defendants cooked the turkeys. It does appear, however, that all of them participated in the preparation of the salad.
Outcome: This case ultimately turned on the court’s interpretation of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur used to prove such cases with a paucity of proof. The doctrine requires “(1) The event or accident in question be of the kind which does not ordinarily occur in the absence of someone’s negligence; and (2) the agency or instrumentality causing the harm must have been within the exclusive control of the defendant.”
The court found that first criteria satisfied but ruled that it failed on the second criteria of exclusive control. They could not prove which of the band mother’s Turkeys was the culprit so all of the band mothers walked.
Now, here is your Palin holiday video.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I am off to the Turley Turkeybowl game.