Lyin’ and Cheatin’ in Discovery: Chili Seller Gives the Finger to the Plaintiffs and Co-Defendants

Anna Ayala ain’t got nothin’ on these folks. You remember Anna – she gave Wendy’s the finger – in a bowl of chili – and then said that Wendy’s gave it to her. She is going to prison.

Now, a food supplier – of chili – has given the finger to the court system. Their current problem: a bunch of people have grabbed that finger and are about to twist it off.

This article from the Houston Chronicle is a horror story about discovery abuse. Fifteen people got sick and ten were hospitalized after eating from tubs of chili con carne. Litigation followed. Read this excerpt to learn about the discovery issue:

“At the center of allegations is Ben E. Keith Foods, among the region’s biggest restaurant suppliers, which stands accused of withholding “smoking gun” memos.

The notes suggest that Keith managers misled state and federal investigators trying to track the source of the disease.

Opposing lawyers say the memos buttress allegations that Keith received thawed and refrozen chili that had been rejected by a Dallas restaurant, got a full refund plus a disposal fee from the chili maker and then resold the product to Town Talk Foods.”

And then read this, again taken from the article:

“On April 29, the lawsuit brought by the victims took a dramatic turn when Keith’s former attorney, Bob Mabel, released 1,000 pages of documents, including a series of diarylike memos written by Carla Sue Oliver, the company’s Fort Worth inventory-control manager.

Perhaps most significant to the case, an Oliver memo quotes the manager of Norma’s, a Dallas cafe, as saying she returned a case of Texas Chili because one of the four 5-pound tubs “smelled really bad” after being thawed.”

Requests for sanctions abound. Over $1,000,000 is sought.

Why do people think they can get away with this? Because, unfortunately, sometimes they do. But when they get caught, they should get hammered, I mean really hammered. Hard. ‘Till it hurts. ‘Till it hurts bad.

The trial date is January 17, 2006.

I believe Anna Ayala should go to the slammer. Now, what about the people who did this to the good citizens of Houston? What should their punishment be? Is taking away their money enough? Should someone go to jail? I mean, compare the harm caused by Anna with the harm caused by the person who re-shipped this chili – which is worse? True, Anna hurt Wendy’s business. But the person who re-shipped this chili caused serious injuries to at least 10 people.

I guess I should say that it is possible that the chili was re-shipped by mistake. That somehow someone received bad chili, got a refund for it, got paid for destroying it, and then shipped it out again by mistake.

Then again, it is possible that that severed finger from Neveda unknowingly fell out of Anna Ayala’s shirt pocket right into that bowl of Wendy’s chili in San Jose.

I mean, it could happen. Couldn’t it?