Transcript - Sara Lee - WZZM Channel 13 - January 2, 1999

Sara Lee Litigation
WZZM Channel 13
January 1, 1999

Reporter: Nearly 11 hours after the Chicago Attorney and Inspectors from the US Department of Agriculture entered the Bil Mar Plant they packed up their video cameras and left with their findings. But not before we caught up with them for answers. Attorney Ken Moll's purpose was to document cross-contamination. He says within 5 minutes of entering the rooms at the plant his theories were confirmed.

Ken Moll: There were some conditions in there that were unfit for manufacturing process.

Reporter: We asked for specifics.

Ken Moll: There were areas and rooms that were unfit for manufacturing processes. These rooms were so small they showed evidence of condensation dripping.

Reporter: 90% of the inspectors time was spent in the area where Bil Mar manufactures their franks. The attorney and his team of inspectors say they found poor ventilation systems inside. Part of their documentation shows air was allowed to go from the raw side of the plant to the cook side before it was packaged. But based on what you've seen today, are you confident on moving ahead with your class-action lawsuit?

Ken Moll: Absolutely

Reporter: On the night of December 21st, Frank Paluch went to his refrigerator and grabbed 2 Ballpark Franks

Frank Paluch: I was hungry and I got up and I made two of them.

Reporter: It was a regular meal for the former Chicago police officer, but what happened just a few hours later according to Paluch was anything but regular.

Frank Paluch: I could feel my insides, like somebody was twisting them. I threw up.

Reporter: Paluch says he felt sick for nearly a week until antibiotics stopped the pain. But it wasn't until a local TV news report about the recall at the Bil Mar Plant that the former cop put together his case.

Frank Paluch: The lot number was EST6911. I go in the fridge, bingo, EST 6911. I believe these people caused me to get sick and go through trauma and hell for 5, 6 days.

Reporter: After Paluch got sick he got angry and he says he's fighting back by leading a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Bil Mar and its parent company Sara Lee, filed here in Chicago's Cook County Circuit Court. His attorney claims he's heard at least 300 stories similar to Paluch's.

Ken Moll: Listeria is the worst, the worst food poisoning bacteria there is out there.

Reporter: In the lawsuit Attorney Kenneth Moll says Bil Mar and Sara Lee were well aware they were selling contaminated meat. The suit claims the company made false statements about the safety of the hotdogs, intentionally committed fraud, and conspired to hide the truth from the general public. Even going further to say the outbreak is the result of gross negligence on the part of Bil Mar employees, and because of those factors Attorney Moll is making a new claim about how widespread the outbreak is.

Ken Moll: The amount of calls we got regarding death is much more than the CDC has reported as 8. They called to reestablish they are investigating but the ....puts the number of deaths probably between 15 and 20.

Reporter: The Centers for Disease Control dispute the claim saying the only confirmed deaths resulting from the listeria outbreak is 8, but that the investigation is just beginning, as is the legal fight for Bil Mar.

Frank: Apparently they don't care about the public or what the public is eating. They're not concerned with the safety of the people.