Accomplished Attorney, Professor, Author, Advocate

  • Examples of the many cases that Denis has worked on over the years, are listed on the Marler Clark website here:

    http://www.marlerclark.com/case_news/C88#j

  • Book Chapters:

    “Food as a Product,” in Product Liability Law Deskbook, Alisa Brodkowitz, editor (Washington State Association for Justice 2014).

    Torts and Civil Litigation for Damages, including Class Actions,” and “Escherichia Coli O157:H7,” two chapter-entries in Food Issues: An Encyclopedia, edited by Ken Albala (Sage Publications 2014).

     “Food Safety and the Law: Understanding the Real-Life Liability Risks,” in Researching the Hazards in Hazardous Food, edited by Barbara Alamanza & Richard Ghiselli, (Apple Academic Press Dec. 15, 2013).

    “A Future Uncertain: Food Irradiation From a Legal Perspective,” Chapter 16, in Food Irradiation Research And Technology, edited by Christopher H. Sommers & Xuetong Fan (IFT Press 2006).

    “Contaminated Fresh Produce and Product Liability: A Law-in-Action Perspective,” Chapter 21, in Microbial Safety of Fresh Produce: Challenges, Perspectives, and Strategies, edited by Xuetong Fan, et al., pp. 385-98 (IFT Press 2009).

    Law Review Articles:

    PROSSER’S BAIT-AND-SWITCH: How Food Safety Was Sacrificed In The Battle For Tort’s Empire, __ Nevada Law Review ___ (publication forthcoming).

     A CONTINUING PLAGUE: Faceless Transactions and the Coincident Rise of Food Adulteration and Legal Regulation of Quality, 2014 Wisconsin L. Rev. 101 (2014).

     ON (CR)EDIBILITY: Why Food in the U.S. May Never Be Safe, Symposium: Food Policy and Health, 21 Stanford L. & Pol. Rev. 245 (2010).

    PREEMPTING FOOD SAFETY: An Examination of USDA Rulemaking and its E. coli O157:H7 Policy in Light of Estate of Kriefall ex rel. Kriefall v. Excel Corporation, 1 J. Food Law & Pol. 375 (Fall 2005).

    Rendered Stateless: The Extraordinary Apprehension of Foreign Nationals and the Politics of Exclusion, 10 Wis. Int’l L. J. 78 (Fall 1991). (Winner of the Quackenbush Award for the Best International Law Journal Article of the year.)

    Other Published Articles:

    “Intentional Contamination: The Legal Risks and Responsibilities,” 70 J. of Environmental Health 58 (January/February 2008).

    “Where’s the Meat? The Need for Full Public Disclosure in Meat Recalls,” 68 J. of Environmental Health 58 (June 2006) (with co-author Patti Waller, MS).

    “An E. Coli Outbreak At a Chain Restaurant: A Case Study on How Easily Legal Liability Can Spread to a Franchisor,” Franchising Business and Law Alert, Feb. 1, 2004, available at http://www.marlerclark.com/franchising-liability.pdf

    “Did the Supreme Court Just Create a Relevancy Requirement for the Public Records Act?” Trial News, 17-19 (Sept. 2001).

    “E. coli Lawsuit Results in a $4.75 Million Jury Award For Injured Children: A Case Study In How Not to Learn About Food Safety,” Trial News (May 1, 2001).

    Selected Short Essays, Op-Ed Pieces, and Blog-Posts:

    Of Recycled Buns, Food Safety in China, and the Jabberwocky of Political Debate, May 11, 2011.

     In a Perfect World: Making Hamburger Safe, December 13, 2010.

    Meet My Butcher: Valuing the Meat You Eat, September 12, 2010.

    On Restaurant Grades: Giving an F to Josh Ozersky, July 29, 2010.

     The Perils of Punditry: Everyone Has an Opinion, June 29, 2010.

     What the Oil Spill Can Teach Us About Food Safety, June 01, 2010.

    On Civic Agriculture: Why Backyard Chickens Matter, April 12, 2010.

     Keeping Tradition Alive (despite the risks), March 19, 2010.

    On Cooking Burgers: Out, damned E. coli! Out! Feb. 24, 2010.

     Tender, But Deadly: Mechanically-Tenderized Steaks and E. coli O157:H7, Dec. 29, 2009.

    The Blame Game: How Cargill Pointed the Finger, Dec. 15, 2009.

    Losing the Face-to-Face in the Global Food Market, Nov. 18. 2009.

    Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: More Meat Industry Dissembling on E. coli, Oct. 21, 2009.

    Freedom Means Never Having to Be Logical: Rebutting Michelle Bachmann on the 2009 Food Safety Modernization Act, Oct. 15, 2009.

    RIP Gourmet Magazine, You’ll Be Greatly Missed, Oct. 12, 2009.

    What the Restaurant Industry Should Really Do in Support of National Food Safety Education Month—That is, if it was really serious about food safety, Sept. 21, 2009.

    More Double-Talk from USDA on E. coli and Swift Meat Recall, July 13, 2009, http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/2009/07/articles/food-policy-regulation/more-doubletalk-from-usda-on-e-coli-and-swift-meat-recall/

    Back to the Future: Obama Recycling Clinton-Era Food Safety Initiatives as New, July 7, 2009, http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/2009/07/articles/food-policy-regulation/back-to-the-future-obama-recycling-clintonera-food-safety-initiatives-as-new/

    Consumer Trust in Food Safety in the U.S. Plummets Because of Rise in Recalls, July 6, 2009, http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/2009/07/articles/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/consumer-trust-in-food-safety-in-the-us-plummets-because-of-rise-in-recalls/

    The “Guess Who Inspects It Game”: Nestle E. coli Cookie Dough Edition, Junje 29, 2009, http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/2009/06/articles/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/the-guess-who-inspects-it-game-nestle-e-coli-cookie-dough-edition/

    Food Safety Enforcement: How the Brits Do It, June 15, 2009, http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/2009/06/articles/food-policy-regulation/food-safety-enforcement-how-the-brits-do-it/

    Before Food Was Fast: Some Looks Back to a Time when Food was Local, Slow, and Safe, May 18, 2009, (essay and book reviews), http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/2009/05/articles/food-poisoning-watch/before-food-was-fast-some-looks-back-to-a-time-when-food-was-local-slow-and-safe/

     Dissenting Justices in Wyeth v. Levine on FDA-Approval of Drugs: “Is it Safe?” March 10, 2009, http://www.marlerblog.com/2009/03/articles/lawyer-oped/denis-stearns-guest-blogger-the-dissenting-justices-in-wyeth-v-levine-on-the-fdaapproval-of-drugs-is-it-safe/

     The Market For Peanuts: Why Food In The U.S. May Never Be Safe, Feb. 12, 2009, http://www.marlerblog.com/2009/02/articles/lawyer-oped/guest-blog-denis-w-stearns-the-market-for-peanuts-why-food-in-the-us-may-never-be-safe/

     CHICKEN IN AMERICA: A Lesson In Irony (And Bad Taste), Dec. 17, 2008, http://www.marlerblog.com/2008/12/articles/lawyer-oped/chicken-in-america-a-lesson-in-irony-and-bad-taste-guest-blogger-denis-w-stearns-jd/

    Who Does the USDA Really Protect When It Comes to Deadly E. coli? Aug. 18, 2008, http://www.marlerblog.com/2008/08/articles/lawyer-oped/who-does-the-usda-really-protect-when-it-comes-to-deadly-e-coli/

                  These essays can be found here: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/contributors/denis-stearns/

    Columns:

    Monthly column on legal issues relating to product distribution for ID Access, a publication for distribution managers and distributor sales professionals. See www.myidaccess.com/index.php

    • Product Liability: A Brief History of Its Early Origins.
    • Product Liability: How It Turned Strict.
    • Chain of Distribution Liability: Tag, You’re It.
    • Product Distributor Liability: Some Different Scenarios.
    • Indemnification, Contribution, and Allocation of Fault: Shifting the Blame.
    • Intentional Contamination: Liability for the Criminal Acts of Employees.

    (Text of columns available here: www.marlerclark.com/dstearns.htm)

    Other Published Essays & Commentaries:

     “Why Hepatitis-A Vaccinations are Bad for (My) Business,” Food Quality magazine, July-August, 2002.

    “USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service Should Say What It Means, Mean What it Says—And Say It Clearly,” Food Protection Report, at 10 (July/August 2002).

    “The Courage to Criticize,” Food Protection Report, at 2A (October 1999).

    Book Reviews:

    “Guess What’s Coming for Dinner? The Next Food Scare, Trial News (April 1, 1999), review of DEADLY FEASTS: The “Prion” Controversy and the Public’s Health (1997).

  • Legal, Scientific, or Academic Conferences:

    Legal Claims Against Third-Party Auditors: Does FSMA Suggest a Possible Solution? Conference: Food Fight: An Examination of Recent Trends in Food Litigation and Where We Go From Here, sponsored by Resnick Program for Food Law & Policy and California Bar Association, Litigation Section, at UCLA School of Law, April 11, 2004.

    “Turning the Black Swan White: Questioning the Need for Regulation of Non-Industrial Agriculture,” New Directions for Food Safety: The Food Safety Modernization Act and Beyond, Conference sponsored by the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, and Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and Food Law Lab, at Harvard Law School, February 21, 2014.

     “A CONTINUING PLAGUE: Faceless Transactions and the Coincident Rise of Food Adulteration and Legal Regulation of Quality,” Symposium: Safety and Sustainability in the Era of Food Systems: Reaching a More Integrated Approach, sponsored by the Wisconsin Law Review and held in conjunction with the 2013 annual conference of the American Agricultural Law Association, October 31, 2013, Madison, Wisconsin.

    “Ethical Challenges of Settling Claims Arising from Large Foodborne Illness Outbreaks: Three Case Studies,” Towards Global Food Law: Transatlantic Competition and Collaboration, University of Washington School of Law, Feb. 8, 2013. The conference-sponsors also included the The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Idaho School of Food Science, and Hautes études commerciales de Paris.

    “Bringing Practice to the Classroom: A New Kind of Apprenticeship,” 2011 Western Regional Legal Writing Conference,” University of San Francisco School of Law, August 27, 2011.

    “Chasing the Ambulance Away: Reshaping the Role of Personal Injury Lawyer in Society and the Law,” The Robert Leader Endowed Lecture, Michigan State University, Master of Science in Food Safety program, June 17, 2010.

    “Market Regulation and Food Policy,” Symposium: Food Policy and Health, panel and paper presentation, Stanford School of Law, April 23, 2010.

    “On Faceless Transactions: How Tort Law Evolved to Manage the Sale of Food Between Strangers,” presentation of paper, followed by Q&A session, at From Field to Tablet: A Symposium on Food Culture and the Law, at University of Iowa, February 26, 2010.

    “PROOF OF DEFECT IN U.S. FOOD CASES: Historical Origins & Current Approaches,” presentation at 2009 Conference on the Law of Food and Drink, at British Institute of International and Comparative Law, London, June 11, 2009.

    “On Faceless Transactions: How Tort Law Evolved to Manage the Sale of Food Between Strangers,” abstract submission and panel presentation, at Joint 2009 Annual Meetings of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS) and the Association For The Study Of Food and Society (ASFS), May 28-31, 2009, Penn State University, Pennsylvania.

    “Food Safety Priorities and Risk for the Consumer: A Consumer Perspective,” part of panel presentation, “Setting Priorities for Food Safety: Resources, Risks, and Challenges for the Next Decade,” 2008 IFT Annual Meeting, in New Orleans, June 29, 2008.

    “Déjà vu—Bad Beef Back on the Table: The Recurrence of E. coli O157:H7 Contaminated Meat and What it Means from a Legal and Public Policy Perspective,” 2008 Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) Annual Educational Conference, in Anaheim, June 10, 2008

    “Product Liability and Security,” 2008 Educational Conference, Essential of Food Law and Regulations, May 12, 2008, Food Innovation Center, Portland, Oregon, sponsored by Oregon State University.

    “Microbial Safety of Produce: From a Legal, Historical, and Economic Perspective,” Third International Symposium on Agro-terrorism, hosted by United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, in Kansas City, Missouri, April 22, 2008.

    “Food Litigation and Market Failure: Why lawsuits are a necessary, but not sufficient incentive for improving food safety,” presentation at CLE and Conference, “Who’s Minding the Store: The Current State of Food Safety and How It Can Be Improved,” April 11, 2008, Seattle University School of Law.

    “Profiting From Unsafe Food: The Legal and Economic Incentives that Drive Foodborne Illness Litigation,” 2007 International Conference for Food Safety and Quality, November 6, 2007.

    “Handwashing on Trial,” a mock-trial designed to teach the real-world legal consequences of a foodborne illness outbreak caused by infected foodservice workers, 2007 National Environmental Health Association Annual Education Conference, June, 19.2007.

    “Recouping Outbreak Costs: Who Should Pay?” 2007 Rocky Mountain Food Safety Conference, May 22, 2007.

    Keynote Address: “How Food Companies Profit While Making the Public Pay for Unsafe Food,” 2007 Oregon Environmental Health Association Annual Education Conference, April 23, 2007.

    “Economic Incentives for Improved Food Safety: Seeking Reimbursement of Public Expenditures Caused by Foodborne Illness Outbreaks,” 2007 Iowa Public Health Conference, April 4, 2007.

    “You Break It, You Bought It: Incentivizing Food Safety by Making Restaurants Reimburse for Outbreak Costs,” and “How To Sue A Health Department: Understanding the Risk of Legal Liability for Negligent Inspections and Other Alleged Failures” 2007 Southwest Food Safety Seminar in Laughlin, Nevada, January 31, 2007, and February 1, 2007 (two presentations).

    “Economic Incentives for Improved Food Safety: Recouping Outbreak-Related Costs of the Hepatitis-A Infected Foodservice Employee,” 13th Joint Conference on Health, Washington State Public Health Association, Oct. 18, 2006.

    “Economic Incentives for Improved Food Safety: Seeking Reimbursement of Public Expenditures Caused by Foodborne Illness Outbreaks,” 2006 National Environmental Health Association Annual Education Conference, June 25, 2006.

    “Understanding and Addressing Potential Liability Issues for the Food Processor,” 2005 Annual Meeting of Institute of Food Technologists, July 16, 2005, New Orleans, Louisiana.  Full-day seminar approved for continuing education credits.

    “The Legal Basis for Food Establishment Operator Responsibility and Liability in Foodborne Illness Outbreak,” Washington State Environmental Health Association Annual Educational Conference, May 4, 2005, Spokane, Washington, approved for one-hour of continuing education credit for Registered Sanitarians.

    “Sources of Liability that May Apply to Regulators Conducting Inspections and Epidemiological Investigations,” Washington State Environmental Health Association Annual Educational Conference, May 4, 2005, Spokane, Washington, approved for one-hour of continuing education credit for Registered Sanitarians.

    “Mr./Ms. CEO—Help Me Help You ‘Make the Case’ for Sanitation,” Annual Meeting of International Association for Food Protection, August 11, 2004, Phoenix, Arizona.

    “Liability and Foodborne Illness: Understanding the Law Can Protect Your Business,” 2004 Annual Meeting of Institute of Food Technologists, July 11, 2004, Las Vegas, Nevada.  Full-day seminar approved for continuing education credits.

    “Public Advocacy for Improved Food Safety: An Agenda For Change,” 2003 Annual Conference of State Public Interest Research Groups, December 11, 2003, Denver, Colorado. Presentation followed by panel discussion with Felicia Nestor of Government Accountability Project.

    “Food Safety Litigation: Strict Liability Related to Food Service,” Greater New York Health Care Food Administrator’s Association Annual Seminar, Nov. 9, 2005 (approved for 2 continuing education credit-hours for registered dieticians and dietary managers).

    “Potential Legal Ramifications of Not Using Food Irradiation,” The International Meeting for Radiation Processing, Chicago, Illinois. September 10, 2003. Presentation followed by panel discussion.

    “From the School Cafeteria to Courtroom: The Legal Implications of a Foodborne Illness Investigation,” 2003 Annual Conference of Oregon Environmental Health Association, Bend, Oregon, April 29, 2003.

    “Due Diligence From a Legal Perspective: Food Product Liability Law in Action,” Half-Day Seminar, 2003 Annual Meeting of Institute of Food Technologists, Chicago, Illinois, July 12, 2003.

    “The Scary Truth About Strict Liability,” Conference on Handwashing, Sanitizers, and Cross-contamination, by National Capital Area Environmental Health Association, May 4, 2001, Fairfax, Virginia.

    “Understanding the Legal Risks of Food Poisoning,” American Society of Healthcare Food Service Administrators, Seattle Chapter, at Swedish Medical Center, February 14, 2001.

    “Fundamentals of Product Liability Law for Food Scientists,” Joint Meeting of Northwest Regional Chapter of the Institute of Food Technologists, in Vancouver, BC, Canada, October 1, 1999.

    “Fundamentals of Product Liability Law for Food Scientists,” Joint Meeting of Louisiana and Mississippi Chapters of Institute of Food Technologists, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, April 29, 1999.

  • Industry & Educational Conferences or Meetings:

    “The Fuss About Food Safety: Understanding How the Law Makes You Liable for Selling Unsafe Food,” panelist presentation, at Natural Products Expo West, Anaheim, California, March 13, 2010.

    “Product Liability and Foodborne Illness: How Understanding the Law Can Protect Your Business (and You),” Annual Meeting, Institute of Food Technologists, Southern California Chapter, Los Angeles, January 20, 2010.

    “On Faceless Transactions: How Tort Law Evolved to Manage the Sale of Food Between Strangers,” Keynote Address at 4th International Conference for Food Safety and Quality, November 3, 2009, Redondo Beach, California.

    “Recent Developments in Outbreaks and Recalls: The Salmonella Years, and Beyond” Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) Emerging Issues in Food Litigation Webinar, September 30, 2009.

    “Lessons Learned from Recent Foodborne Illness Outbreaks and Recalls—2007 & 2008, The Salmonella Years,” Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) Foodborne Illness Litigation Conference, May 6-7, 2009, New Orleans, Louisiana.

    “Deadly Food & Product Liability,” Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets (a Tesco company), Technical Summit for Product Suppliers and QA Personnel, March 26, 2009, in Manhattan Beach, California.

    “Food Recall Procedures and Related Outbreak Litigation,” 2008 Spring Conference on Hospitality Supply Management, by Institute for Supply Management, Joint-Presentation, in Chicago, May 15, 2008.

    “Handwashing On Trial: Setting Standards. Changing Behaviors,” a mock-trial designed to teach the real-world legal consequences of a foodborne illness outbreak caused by infected foodservice workers, followed by a two-hour workshop and training session, 2008 Food Safety Summit, in Washington DC, March 17, 2008.

    “Legal Liability for Food-Related Outbreaks: The Law, History, and Some Lessons Learned,” 27th Annual Northwest Food Safety and Sanitation Conference and Workshop, Portland, Oregon, Oct. 30, 2007.

    “Food Safety: It’s More Than Checking the Expiration Date,” 2007 Spring Conference on Hospitality Supply Management, by Institute for Supply Management, Joint-Presentation, May 17, 2007

    “Food Safety and Litigation,” National Restaurant Association Spring Meeting, Washington DC, March 15-16, 2005, Presentation to Quality Assurance Executive Study Group.

    “Food Recall Litigation: Is it a Misnomer?” Annual Meeting of National Turkey Foundation, Savannah, Georgia, February 9, 2004.

    “Use of Unpasteurized Eggs and the Risk of Punitive Damages,” National Restaurant Association Orlando, Florida, Jan. 14, 2003, Presentation to Risk Managers Executive Study Group.

    “Setting the Standard for Hygiene,” 2003 Food Safety Summit, Washington, DC, March 15-17, 2002.

    “Strict Liability and Constructive Knowledge Explained,” National Restaurant Association, Seattle, Washington, July 11, 2002, Presentation to Risk Managers Executive Study Group.

    “Food Poisoning, Deadly Litigation: Introduction to Strict Liability,” National Association of Catering Executives 2002 Educational Conference, Charleston, South Carolina, July 16, 2002.

    Salmonella and the Impact on the Restaurant Industry,” National Restaurant Association Fall Meeting, San Diego, California, October 17, 2002, Presentation to Quality Assurance Executive Study Group.

    “Crisis Management,” International Food Safety Council Congress, sponsored by National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, 90-minute presentation, Chicago, Illinois, Oct. 23, 2001.

    “Lessons of the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak,” Presentation to the Inland Northwest Dairy Association, April 28, 2001, Spokane, Washington.

    “Understanding Strict Product Liability,” 2000 Annual Meeting of American Meat Institute, Presentation to Boards of Directors and Trustees, Las Vegas, Nevada, October 12, 2000.

    “Risk of (No) Handwashing: Legal Exposure and Economic Impacts,” one-hour presentation as part of all-day seminar, HACCP Hands, April 4, 2000, Tampa, Florida, sponsored by HealthMinder Inc.

Denis W. Stearns, Attorney at Law

Overview: An attorney with over twenty years of experience seeking solutions on behalf of clients. Denis has practiced in a wide variety of practice areas, with focused experience practicing in the areas of torts (personal injury), product liability, food and agriculture law, and consumer protection He was a founding partner of the first and still leading food safety law firm anywhere—Marler Clark, where he still practices as an Of Counsel attorney. http://www.marlerclark.com/lawyers/view/denis-stearns He is a much respected professor of law, having taught full-time for four years at Seattle University School of Law, teaching legal writing, torts, products liability, food law and policy. http://www.law.seattleu.edu/faculty/faculty-profiles/adjunct/denis-stearns He is a widely-published author and frequent speaker on food law and policy, agriculture, sustainability, and consumer protection, And Denis has spent over fifteen volunteering his time as a an attorney and advocate, proving free legal services to the disenfranchised, and serving on the Board of Directors of two HIV/AIDS service and health care organizations. For more detail on his many accomplishments, please the entries to the left and example cases below.

  • 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak Litigation
  • 1996 Odwalla Apple Juice E. coli Outbreak Litigation
  • 2003 Chili’s Salmonella Outbreak Litigation
  • 2006 Dole Spinach E. coli Outbreak Litigation
  • 2009 Nestle Cookie Dough Outbreak Litigation
  • 2013 Townsend Farms Organic Berries Hepatitis Outbreak Litigation

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