Impact of Tainted Food Product – Lost Profits

Type of Matter:

A food processing company was notified by Federal and state agencies that Listeria had been traced to their facility. This began a process of sourcing the Listeria and commencing extraordinary measures to recall tainted food, eradicate the contamination and try to recover the business. The result was a lawsuit against the food supplier that shipped the Listeria to the plant.

Background:

Arxis was retained to determine lost profit damages associated with the events surrounding the Listeria contamination, including shutting the facility for a period of time, recalling product, and overcoming the incredibly negative publicity associated with food poisoning. The source of Listeria was never in doubt. The litigation was almost entirely related to the question of economic damages.

Arxis Work:

Initially our analysis considered the prospect that there would be a permanent loss of some or all of the value of the company since, at best, the recovery would likely require several years. The certainty of the Listeria contamination and the appearance to the marketplace of negligence or other failings on the part of the company made the prospect of recovery very difficult. After extensive discussions with management we were persuaded that it was reasonable to assume that the company could eventually recover in spite of substantial loss of income, reputation, and goodwill in the industry in the interim.

The next step was to calculate the amount of damages required to compensate the injured party for the injury sustained, and nothing more; such as simply make good or replace the loss caused by the wrong or injury. Because our work was being done before the business had fully recovered, two projections were required. First, we projected financial results for the company as if there has been no Listeria contamination. The second projection involved looking at actual financial results since the damage event and projecting into the future until results matched the “without Listeria” projections signaling the end of the “loss period.”

The difference between financial results as-if the Listeria event did not happen minus the results (actual and projected) after the Listeria contamination was the lost income damages. Finally, the projected lost income was discounted to arrive at a damage amount as of the date of trial. 

Result:

After extensive discovery and deposition testimony, the case settled on the eve of trial. Arxis’ work in clearly and independently identifying the lost income was compelling and that factor, along with others, drove the parties to a pre-trial settlement.

(Interested in reading more “Damages Calculations” cases?)