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Swine Flu Victim's Husband Seeks to File Lawsuit Against Smithfield Foods

May 18, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The husband of the first U.S. citizen to die of swine flu in this country has filed a petition  seeking information from Smithfield Foods Inc., (doing business as Granjas Carroll de Mexico), the part-owner of a commercial pig farm operation in Veracruz, Mexico.  The petition seeks to determine whether there is enough evidence to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against Smithfield Foods Inc.

The commercial pig farm partially owned by Smithfield Foods is located in La Gloria, the Mexican city where swine flu (the H1N1 virus) is thought to have originated.  Steven Trunnell, the husband of 33-year-old Judy Dominguez Trunnell, is asking a court in Cameron County, Texas  to authorize depositions of company officials, employees and agents to investigate wrongful death claims against Smithfield Foods Inc.

Judy Trunnell died of swine flu complications on May 5.  The young school teacher was 8 months pregnant when she became ill, but doctors were able to deliver her daughter by Cesarean-section before she passed.

According to her husband's court filing, the swine flu originated in and around "manure lagoons" of Smithfield Foods' pig farming operation in La Gloria. Her husband's petition states that unsanitary conditions at the pig farm may have caused the development and spread of the flu virus.  The petition asserts  "that there may be evidence which links the creation of the newest strain of the deadly swine flu...with Smithfield Foods' humongous pig farm operation in Mexico, which under the joint control of Smithfield Foods, has been allowed to lapse into a breeding ground of immense unsanitary proportions for a deadly virus."

Smithfield insists that its pig farming operation in La Gloria played no role in the swine flu outbreak.  And over the weekend, UPI reported that health officials investigating the flu have not found a link between the virus and the Smithfield Foods farm.  But residents in La Gloria have long blamed that operation for a variety of other problems and illnesses, UPI said.

The swine flu has sickened hundreds of people around the world, raising concerns of a pandemic.  In the U.S., the virus claimed a sixth life on Sunday, that of a New York City school principal.  There have been three other deaths in Texas, one in Washington state and one in Arizona.

In most people, the swine flu has so far been mild, with victims reporting flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, aches and fatigue.  However, people with underlying medical conditions - including pregnant women, diabetics, those with compromised immune systems, the elderly and children - appear to face more danger from the swine flu.

Right now, the World Health Organization's  (WHO) pandemic alert level for the swine flu stands at Phase 5, out of a possible 6.   This means there is widespread human-to-human transmission of the virus in at least two countries in one region.   According to the Associated Press, the current system focuses on how widespread the disease has become without regard to its severity.

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