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Smego v. Aramark Food Servs. Corp.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

January 10, 2014

RICHARD SMEGO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ARAMARK FOOD SERVICES CORP., et al., Defendants

For Richard M Smego, Jeremy Schloss, Terry J Hyatt, Donald Hoover, Plaintiffs: Daniel Alan Noll, LEAD ATTORNEY, NOLL LAW OFFICE LLC, Springfield, IL; Benjamin C Ford, Ginny Lynn Huot, Mark A Brittingham, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, Carbondale, IL.

For Aramark Food Services Corp, Defendant: Matthew S Hendricks, LEAD ATTORNEY, BAKER STERCHI COWDEN & RICE LLP, St Louis, MO.

For Alfreda Kibby, Individual Capacity, Eugene McAdory, Forest Ashby, Individual Capacity, Defendants: Christopher L Higgerson, LEAD ATTORNEY, ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL, Springfield, IL.

For Steve Dredge, Defendant: Matthew S Hendricks, LEAD ATTORNEY, BAKER STERCHI COWDEN & RICE LLP, St Louis, MO.

OPINION

Page 889

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

On May 13, 2013, the Court denied the parties' respective summary judgment motions. The Court concluded that, regardless whether the " mechanically separated chicken" served at the Rushville Treatment and Detention Center violates federal regulations, jury questions remain regarding whether the food served at the Center meets constitutional standards. The parties have filed renewed motions for summary judgment, asking in part for a decision on the regulatory disputes.

The Court is still of the opinion that the regulatory disputes do not resolve this case. Contrary to Plaintiffs' assertion, a violation of federal regulations does not automatically violate constitutional standards. See Scherer v. Davis, 468 U.S. 183 n. 12, 104 S.Ct. 3012, 82 L.Ed.2d 139 (1984)(" Neither federal nor state officials lose their [qualified] immunity by violating the clear command of a statute or regulation--of federal or of state law--unless that statute or regulation provides the basis for the cause of action sued upon." ).[1] Likewise, the absence of a federal regulatory violation would not necessarily negate a constitutional claim.

Page 890

However, the Court agrees that ruling on the regulatory disputes now will help streamline the trial and avoid confusing the jury. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that 9 C.F.R. § 319.6 does not prohibit the serving of meals containing mechanically separated chicken as the sole protein source. Section 319.6 is irrelevant to this case.

Section 381.173, on the other hand, is relevant. A reasonable inference arises from § 381.173 that the chicken labeled for further processing only should have been used only for soup stocks and such, which supports (but does not compel) Plaintiffs' conclusion that the mechanically separated chicken labeled for further processing was not fit for consumption. In any event, regardless of the label on the chicken, Plaintiffs maintain that the mechanically separated chicken meals make them ill, a claim which belongs with the jury.

I. The " 20%" rule cited by Plaintiffs does not prohibit Aramark from serving a meal made completely with mechanically separated chicken. But that conclusion does not resolve Plaintiff's claim that the meals make them sick.

Chapter III of Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations addresses the Food and Safety Inspection Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 9 C.F.R. § 300.1. Part 381 of this chapter addresses poultry products; subpart P therein addresses " definitions and standards of identity or composition" for poultry products and contains two sections addressing mechanically separated chicken. 9 C.F.R. § 381.173-74. The latter section provides that mechanically processed chicken " may be used in the formulation of any poultry or meat food product, provided such use conforms with any applicable requirements of . . . this subchapter or part 319 of this chapter." 9 C.F.R. 381.174(b). Part 319 addresses " definition and standards of identity or composition" of meat products.

Aramark's menu lists entrees which many people might expect to be made with ground beef, such as spaghetti, meat loaf, and biscuits with gravy. Instead of using ground beef or sausage, these entrees are made with mechanically separated chicken. Plaintiffs ...


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