Lawyers say Tiger Brands may have to pay listeriosis victims up to R3 million each

Business Insider SA

Listeria contaminates dairy products like unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses; unwashed vegetables; ready-to-eat meat, like polony or pâté; and fish products.
  • Tiger Brands will possibly pay between R100,000 and R3 million to the families of victims who passed away from listeriosis, two of the country’s top legal experts believe. 
  • The company on Wednesday confirmed the presence of Listeria bacteria at its Polokwane facility.  
  • The value of claims will range from the loss of a breadwinner to the loss of an unborn baby, which will be considered as aggravating circumstances.

Tiger Brands can possibly pay between R100,000 and R2 million to the families of the 193 people who have died from Listeriosis in South Africa, two of the country’s top legal experts believe. 

Tiger Brands confirmed the presence of ST6 (Listeria) at its Enterprise Polokwane processing facility in a note to shareholders on Wednesday.

READ: The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has zero doubt Enterprise was responsible for listeriosis – but Tiger Brands is not ready to settle just yet

Its CEO Lawrence Mac Dougall previously said the company will take steps “to consider and address any valid claims which may be made against it”. 

The eventual payouts will be subject to several variables, said Ivan Herselman, director and head legal consultant at the corporate law firm Argumentum.

Unlike countries such as the United States, South African law does not allow wrongful death lawsuits.  “What the family of victims will be compensated for is the loss of income from a breadwinner and those amounts will differ from person to person,” he said. 

Alternatively, families can claim for emotional trauma caused which is very difficult to quantify. However, mothers who lost unborn children due to Listeriosis “will most definitely” get some form of compensation for emotional trauma. 

“The loss of a child causes phenomenal trauma to any mother… the feelings of guilt and extreme post-traumatic stress,” he said. 

“It wouldn’t be unusual if mothers can get R1.5 million to R3 million given the level of pain and suffering they endured.” 

READ: Tiger Brands could lose R50 million a month, every month, if nobody wants to eat polony again – on top of R802 million in possible listeriosis costs

The Enterprise facility in Polokwane identified as being responsible for the current Listeriosis outbreak.

One of the country’s top advocates, who has been involved in a number of high-profile lawsuits, said claimants who lost a breadwinner should get a minimum of R100,000 from Tiger Brands. 

“The Esidimeni sage set a precedent of an R1.2 million payout to the families of each victim - but that was a constitutional matter,” the lawyer said. She spoke to Business Insider South Africa on the condition of anonymity. 

The lawyer, however, said pregnant mothers who lost babies can expect payments of roughly R1.5 million. "The loss of a child is an aggravating factor for possible lawsuits.” 

In a response to questions from Business Insider South Africa on Thursday morning, Tiger Brands said the company’s lawyers have been engaging with the legal representation of the claimants. 

“The legal process must follow its course, but I can assure you, as we have also stated publicly before, that the company is resolute to do the right thing, and to act expeditiously,” spokesperson Nevashnee Naicker said. 

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