Trials & Litigation

Retired Florida judge died after eating tainted Jif peanut butter, suit claims

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Updated: A retired Florida judge died in July 2022 after eating peanut butter that was contaminated with salmonella, according to allegations in a lawsuit seeking damages from the maker of Jif and the grocery store that sold it.

The wrongful-death suit was filed March 17 by the family of the late Judge Robert A. Foster Jr. of Tampa, Florida, in Hillsborough County, Florida. The suit defendants are the maker of the peanut butter, the J.M. Smucker Co., and Publix Super Markets Inc.

Jif peanut butter had been recalled. The suit says Smucker sold “unreasonably dangerous” peanut butter, and Publix Super Markets breached a duty “to adequately notify and warn consumers” about the tainted peanut butter.

Foster died at age 75, according to an online obituary.

The suit seeks damages under theories of strict liability, negligence, breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, and loss of consortium.

Foster’s family is represented by Steven E. Nauman of Morgan & Morgan.

Media representatives for Publix Super Markets and the J.M. Smucker Co. did not immediately reply to the ABA Journal’s request for comment.

Nauman and John Morgan of Morgan & Morgan issued this statement: “It’s scary to think that something as innocuous as putting a jar of peanut butter in your cart at Publix could lead directly to someone’s tragic death, but that’s exactly what we’re alleging happened in this case. We’ve been lawyers in Florida for years, and our legal community lost a titan in Judge Foster. Simply issuing a recall, like Smucker did with this peanut butter, does not absolve food companies of their responsibility to provide safe products. We will work to hold the companies responsible for Judge Foster’s death accountable to the fullest extent of the law to ensure this never happens again.”

Legal Newsline had coverage of the suit.

The publication reports that the J.M. Smucker Co. recalled Jif peanut butter last year after an outbreak of salmonella that was linked to a plant in Lexington, Kentucky. The J.M. Smucker Co. is fighting claims over the tainted peanut butter in a federal class action suit in Ohio.

Updated March 31 at 2:50 p.m. to add the statement from Morgan & Morgan.

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