Although a federal judge in Kalamazoo has dismissed some families’ suits against Birds Eye Food because the plaintiffs could not prove that their property was contaminated by Birds Eye’s water from its Fennville, Michigan, plant, suits by three families are moving forward. Further, the company has been required to provide affected homes with access to the city’s water system as well as bottled water. According to WSJM.com, Birds Eye also “agreed to build a wastewater treatment system” in 2010. It was not reported whether that has been done.
Nineteen people who previously or currently live in Fennvile, where the frozen food giant has had a fruit-processing plant for several decades, sued the company. The plant’s wastewater is used by the company to irrigate its fields. However, people living nearby claim that Birds Eye contaminated the groundwater under their houses, causing illness, disability and property damage. The contaminated water reportedly contained higher than normal levels of arsenic, chloride, iron, manganese and sodium.
Although Birds Eye had requested a “summary judgment of dismissal,” the U.S. district court judge hearing the case has allowed several families to continue with their litigation because they “raised genuine factual issues” regarding damage to their plumbing and decrease in their property values. The trial is set to begin in late February, according to WSJM.
Companies are subject to business litigation, both civil and criminal, not just over their finished products, but over the impact that their processes may have on the surrounding community. It is essential that companies do everything possible to lessen or avoid this impact. However, it is also crucial to have a strong legal team in place to separate real from specious claims and to help minimize the financial and public relations damage to the company when they face legal action.
Source: mlive.com, “Fennville residents’ groundwater contamination case against Birds Eye Food continues” John Agar, Dec. 27, 2013