Execs’ Prison Terms Upheld in Bad Egg Case

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By Steven M. Sellers

Oct. 3 — Prison sentences for two egg company executives in the wake of a multistate salmonella outbreak must stand, the Eighth Circuit ruled Sept. 30 ( United States v. DeCoster , 8th Cir. en banc, No. 15-01890, 15-01891, rehearing denied 9/30/16 ).

The court denied Austin and Peter DeCoster’s petition to rehear a July 2-1 decision upholding their three-month sentences, and also declined their request to have the case heard by the court en banc.

But three members of the court—Chief Judge William J. Riley, and Judges Roger L. Wollman and James B. Loken—voted to grant a rehearing before the entire court, according to the order.

The DeCosters’ commercial farm in Iowa was linked to salmonella-tainted eggs that sickened thousands in 2010. The federal government pursued criminal charges against Quality Egg LLC and the DeCosters, and in 2014 they pleaded guilty under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. §§331(a) and 333(a)(1).

The DeCosters argued, in part, that the sentences were improper because they didn’t know the eggs the company distributed actually contained salmonella. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit rejected that argument, ruling the DeCosters were held liable for their own negligent acts, rather than vicariously liable for the acts of their employees.

Judge Jane Kelly didn’t participate in the appeal, according to the order.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven M. Sellers at sSellers@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com

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