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Md. Family Files Lawsuit Over Listeria Death

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- One kind of produce, from one farm, proves dangerous for dozens across the country. One person in Maryland has already died from listeria in cantaloupe.

WJZ speaks exclusively with that man's family.

Meghan McCorkell has their powerful message.

The family of Clarence Wells has filed a civil suit against the farm where the listeria outbreak originated. But, when they sat down exclusively with WJZ Friday night, they said nothing can bring their father back.

Clarence Wells, 87, survived the depression and combat during World War II. Now, his family is baffled that a bite of breakfast may be what killed him.

"The numbers just have me in complete awe that there are a million and a half cantaloupes, and my father is one that ate the cantaloupe," said Donna Lloyd, Clarence Wells' daughter.

Lloyd knew something was wrong when her dad gained nine pounds in days. They rushed him to the hospital. Six days later, he died.

Bill Wells remembers his last moment with his dad.

"'I'll see you tomorrow and rest well,'" he said. "And that's when he passed, later that night."

Weeks later, they found out their father tested positive for listeria. The DNA matches the cantaloupe outbreak.

"I was kind of dumbfounded. What does this mean? I don't know what this means," Bill Wells said.

Wells is one of 17 deaths now potentially linked to the cantaloupe contamination, and the CDC says that number could go up.

"The first couple of weeks, I couldn't sit at the table and have breakfast because he wasn't sitting there," Lloyd said.

The Wells family is part of a civil suit against Jensen Farms, the source of the outbreak. By taking action, they hope they can prevent another family from going through the same pain.

"It would give a bit of meaning to his passing away, if we could help somebody not get sick," Lloyd said.

Listeria cases linked to the cantaloupes have now been reported in 19 states. Several other families have also filed lawsuits against Jensen Farms.

Jenson Farms is not commenting about the outbreak due to the pending litigation.

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