Top consumer lawyers suddenly go quiet over listeriosis
Lawyers who were outspoken before are now mum due to 'conflict of interest'
Two top consumer lawyers, who last week publicly warned about class action by listeriosis victims against Tiger Brands, are no longer giving interviews to the media.
One of them has confirmed being hired by Tiger Brands while the other did not say that specifically but cited a “conflict of interest”.
Consumer lawyer Janusz Luterek previously spoke to TimesLIVE about Tiger Brands and the need for environmental health practitioners to be employed by the national department, but by the end of last week he said he could no longer comment on the case.
“I have since been retained by Tiger so I can’t speak about their matter specifically. I can talk generally about food law enforcement and the CPA and class actions but not their case,” he told Times Select on Thursday.
On Monday, he told TimesLIVE this case would lead to a class action lawsuit.
“There is a possibility of a class action. It could be South Africa’s real action. Whoever is responsible [for the outbreak] could face class action.”
He said relatives of people who have died and people who were hospitalised after contracting the disease can sue for damages suffered.
“The damages claimed and the legal costs incurred could be huge. Many millions may be awarded per deceased victim‚ several million per victim requiring long-term care‚ thousands per victim that recovered‚” Luterek said.Rosalind Lake from Norton Rose Fulbright, who had spoken on radio about the Consumer Protection Act and Tiger Brands last week, on Thursday said she too couldn’t comment due to a conflict of interest.
“Unfortunately, I am no longer able to comment on this matter and cannot help you ... I am sorry about this and I hope you find someone to assist you,” she said without elaborating.
Two days earlier, she was interviewed on radio and eNCA where she warned: “Listeriosis may lead to one of South Africa’s biggest class action lawsuits.”
She spoke about the challenges consumers may face in bringing claims and how it was not “an open and shut case”.
“I would caution consumers to let investigations run their cause, before launching any actions,” she said.
She advised consumers to “keep records of everything” and seek legal advice.
Another high-profile consumer protection lawyer, Elizabeth de Stadler, when asked on Monday about the Consumer Protection Act and a class action suit against Tiger Brands, said: “Unfortunately, I am one of those lawyers who does work for Tiger Brands.”
She said she didn’t work on the Enterprise meat portfolio but had done work for another one of their brands.
Asked to comment, Tiger Brands spokesperson Nevashnee Naidoo would only say: “Formally, at this point we have not received any notifications of a legal case. It is difficult to comment until we receive any such a notification.”