Lawsuit filed against Procter & Gamble over semen-injected yogurt
The victims in a yogurt tampering case that brought about convictions in both Wyoming County and federal courts against a fellow employee, have filed a lawsuit against their employer, Procter & Gamble.
Sara Michaels, of Laceyville, and Teresa Davenport, of Wyalusing, filed the lawsuit through their attorney James Carroll Jr. in Bradford County Court, alleging that P&G intentionally inflicted emotional distress, negligently inflicted emotional distress and violated the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
Earlier this year, Larksville resident Joseph Bartorillo was sentenced to two years in federal prison for tampering with a consumer product. In March, he also was sentenced in Wyoming County Court to six months in state prison on two charges of indecent assault and two charges of stalking. He is incarcerated in a federal penitentiary in Lisbon, Ohio.
According to the suit, Michaels reported seven specific instances of yogurt tampering to P&G, while Davenport reported one. It claims P&G "failed in its duty to protect its employees by not adequately monitoring the work place, either before the incidents took place, but more importantly, after P&G was informed that someone was tampering with employee lunches."
The lawsuit charges that both plaintiffs "suffered severe psychological injuries, fear, suspicion, invasion of privacy and sever emotional distress" and have had to undergo medical testing and psychological counseling.
Alex Fried, spokesman for the P&G-Mehoopany plant, said he couldn't comment on pending litigation.
"But, what I can tell you," Fried said, "is that the safety of our employees is of utmost importance, and as soon as we were made of aware of the incident, we investigated and sought the assistance of law enforcement."
Michaels, who worked in information technology at Procter & Gamble in Washington Twp. until about two months ago, claims that on July 9, 2010, she made her first report to the P&G security office that her lunches had been tampered with. Davenport, another IT worker who is still employed at P&G and did not know Michaels well, said she made her first complaint to a yogurt company on Aug. 25, 2010.
"Despite plaintiffs' repeated requests for concrete action, such as security cameras, etc., nothing concrete was done by P&G security or management," the suit alleges and no samples were sent to a testing lab until November.
Michaels reported other yogurt tampering incidents to P&G security on Dec. 20 then on Feb. 2 and Feb. 9, 2011.
The suit states that the company at this point did not warn other co-workers that their lunches might be tampered with or take any concrete action to catch the perpetrator.
On or about March 24, 2011, the lawsuit claims, the plaintiffs were told that new testing was performed on some of the samples "and it was discovered that someone had been injecting human semen into the yogurts that Michaels and Davenport had been eating."
The plaintiffs were informed at the beginning of April 2011 "that a monitoring system had finally been installed in the break room" but it was two days after another tampering incident with Michael's lunch.
And then on or about May 31, 2011, Michaels reported another yogurt tampering incident, and also about the same time when the plaintiffs were informed that Bartorillo had been seen on a surveillance system tampering with her yogurt, that he had he also confessed, and he was arrested.
The lawsuit notes the last incident was a full 326 days after Michaels' first report to P&G security.
Because the plaintiffs believe P&G's actions were intentional, willful, wanton, reckless and indifferent conduct" they are seeking in excess of the local arbitration limit of $30,000, exclusive of court costs and punitive damages on a charge of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The two plaintiffs are seeking the same judgment in excess of local arbitration limits on additional charges of negligent infliction of emotional distress. And, because "P&G also failed to take prompt remedial action when it knew or should have known that a co-employee's conduct was creating a hostile working environment for plaintiffs due to their gender" they are seeking a judgment in excess of local arbitration limits for violating the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
The plaintiffs are also charging Bartorillo with a count of assault and battery and another of intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeking a judgment in excess of local arbitration limits in each matter.
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