Lawyer Looks Through Bil Mar Plant - The Holland Sentinel - March 3, 1999

By: Kristen Appleyard
The Holland Sentinel
March 3, 1999

Vern Bohl admits he doesn't care much for big city lawyers.

And yet, the owner of Bohl's Borculo Restaurant didn't seem bothered by the disruptions of a Chicago attorney who traipsed through his diner Tuesday morning followed by news reporters and photographers.

Bohl's restaurant, just down the road from Bil Mar Foods on 96th Avenue, was the place where attorney Ken Moll chose to meet with his team of specialist prior to inspecting the meat processing plant. Moll is gathering information for a class action lawsuit against Bil Mar's parent company, Chicago-based Sara Lee Corp.

He is suing Bil Mar over the listeria outbreak that has been linked to 20 deaths and 92 illnesses across the country.

Moll and his team - including a food microbiologist, a retired U.S. Department of Agriculture official, a state health department official and a videographer - spent the day examining the plant for areas where cross-contamination was possible during meat processing.

Moll said after the tour that he saw many things that could have led to contamination.

One example, he said, was different rooms sharing the same ceiling.

"Listeria can go airborne from the raw (meat) side to the cooked (meat) side," he said.

He said he and his team focused 90 percent of their efforts in that meat processing area.

Moll started his tour of the plant about 9:30 a.m and finished after 9 p.m.

Moll said his next step is to obtain extensive documentation from Bil Mar and take depositions from plant employees, supervisors and quality control staff.

While Moll works to collect evidence for the lawsuit, Bohl remains calm about the events at Bil Mar. "It's just one of those things," he said amid the clank of coffee cups and the blare of "Regis & Kathie Lee" coming from a TV above the breakfast counter. "Now people are so used to it that it isn't even news anymore."

Bohl, who's owned the restaurant for 20 years, says he's not worried that Bil Mar will pull out of the area altogether, despite the fact that the plant laid off 241 employees last month.

"With the new equipment they're putting in and the renovations, I can't see them moving," he said.