Eric and Ryan Jensen, who owned the cantaloupe farm linked to a deadly 2011 Listeria outbreak, have reportedly urged a court, following their pleas to charges related to the incident, not to sentence them to prison. Additional details about the plea and charges appear in Issue 500 of this Update. They apparently claim that they do not need correctional treatment and have done everything possible to make the victims whole, including declaring bankruptcy to make a pool of money available to compensate them. The brothers pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor charges that each carry potential sanctions of one year in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, as well as one year of supervised release. A sentencing hearing will be held in late January 2014.
According to Eric Jensen’s brief, “this case has already prompted a new awareness of food safety law and the strict liability imposed on producers and food processors. Any desired respect for the law has been accomplished. We have reached a point of diminishing returns on this issue.” Representing 47 of 147 individuals affected by the outbreak, plaintiffs’ lawyer William Marler opined that a sentence of probation would be appropriate given the “nonintent” nature of the alleged crime. See Law360, January 16, 2014.