SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) – A California slaughterhouse, a meat-packing facility and two companies that provided loans to the operations have agreed to settlements after allegations of inhumane treatment led to a massive recall that included beef sold to the National School Lunch Program, according to the deal announced Wednesday.
The parties settled the lawsuit for $155 million, but the Justice Department determined the defendants could only afford to pay a total of about $3.1 million because they were financially devastated by the recall.
In 2008, the Humane Society of the United States released grainy video taken by an undercover investigator posing as an employee that showed crippled and sick cows being kicked, shocked and shoved with forklifts at the Chino-based Westland Meat Co. and Hallmark Meat Packing Co.
The video led to the record-breaking recall of 143 million pounds of beef, including an estimated 37 million pounds that went to the school lunch program.
The so-called “downer” cows aren’t supposed to be slaughtered for human consumption because of the risk of disease, and the recall prompted school districts nationwide to scour their pantries for targeted meat _ although most of it had likely been consumed.
The federal government and the Humane Society ultimately filed a joint lawsuit that alleged the Chino-based businesses had run afoul of the federal False Claims Act because the man who provided the loans, the late Aaron “Arnie” Magidow, had previous felony convictions, including lying to a federal inspector.
Under the law, the plaintiffs argued, the meat facilities could not legally sell beef to the National School Lunch Program. They accused the firms of concealing Magidow’s backing to win the lucrative contract.
Magidow’s two companies, M&M Management and Cattlemen’s Choice, and his estate agreed to pay $2.45 million in the settlement.
Westland and its owner, Steve Mendell, will pay $240,000. Donald R. Hallmark and Donald W. Hallmark settled for $304,130 in October 2012.
“They were saying that they were providing humane treatment and their contracts required it, but they weren’t doing it. It’s the same as someone selling the Pentagon tanks saying they can go 55 mph when they can actually go 20 mph,” said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, chief counsel for the Humane Society.
“The real story here is that taxpayers lost a huge amount of money on this.”
Susan Leader, an attorney representing Magidow’s estate, Cattlemen’s Choice, Westland and M&M Management, said her clients could have prevailed at trial but the financial cost was too great.
Westland’s owner was not aware of the inhumane cattle treatment by “two bad actors” at the plant, she said, and has been ruined by the case.
The slaughterhouse was forced to close as a result.
“When he saw the video, he couldn’t believe it was at his facility,” Leader said of her client, Steve Mendell. “He obviously did not observe any of this.”
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- 11 holiday classics for the ultimate movie marathon
- 2016 college football rivalry games you simply can't miss
- New treatment offers hope for migraine sufferers
- 11 stadiums to watch your favorite football team
- Shopping for a TV? Best models for 2016
- The new beer pairing guide for holiday foods
- Avoid this holiday plumbing disaster in your home
- 7 tips to avoid holiday weight gain
- New treatments mean better prostate cancer survival rates
- 5 of the scariest things found in drains
- 6 tips to create the best family movie night
- New bone marrow procedure holds promise for healing pain
- The best places to celebrate Fall in Phoenix
- Infamous athletes who did the most time for their crimes
- Diet, exercise and aspirin: 3 tools to fight colon cancer
- 2016 baseball highlights, bloopers and blunders
- See how CFOs really feel about business in the Valley
- The best television shows on the internet
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match