The owners of the California-based Hallmark Meat Packing Co. have reportedly settled claims that they committed fraud under the False Claims Act (FCA) by supplying ground beef to school lunch programs without meeting contractual commitments to treat their animals humanely. The Humane Soc’y of the U.S. v. Hallmark Meat Packing Co., No. 5:08-cv-00221 (U.S. Dist. Ct., C.D. Cal., partial settlement announced November 16, 2012). The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) brought the suit after it discovered and videotaped animal abuse at the meatpacking facility. Videotape of employees abusing non-ambulatory animals at the slaughterhouse resulted in the recall of 143 million pounds of beef in February 2008. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) intervened in the litigation, which also involves the Westland Meat Company and other individual defendants.
According to HSUS, Donald Hallmark Sr. and Donald Hallmark Jr. have agreed to pay $304,000 from their personal assets and will make structured payments throughout the next five years totaling $312,802. They will also cooperate with DOJ and produce relevant documents. While a DOJ spokesperson has reportedly indicated that the remainder of the claims are still pending, HSUS stated that the Hallmarks agreed to the entry of a final judgment against their company in the amount of $497 million under FCA’s treble damages provision. HSUS’s complaint alleges that the companies knowingly kicked, beat or dragged disabled, or downer, cattle to force them into the kill box for slaughter. Additional details about the litigation appear in Issue 303 of this Update. See HSUS News Release, November 16, 2012.