Judge awards $4 million wrongful death penalty against Paige Olaf Creamery

The husband of a woman who died of a listeria infection from eating ice cream made by Big Olaf Creamery has been awarded $4 million in damages.

The victim, Mary Katherine Bellman, was the primary caregiver for her husband, Richard Bellman, who suffers from dementia and other health problems.

Mary, 79, was visiting her daughter in Florida in January of 2022 and ate ice cream from Big Olaf’s on January 18th. She died in less than two weeks.

“Unaware of the threat growing silently within her body, it was too late to save her life by the time Mary showed signs and symptoms of an infection that was about to make her seriously ill. Less than two weeks after eating the ice cream, Mary Bellman died,” he recalled. Wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court in Florida.

Judge William F. Young is awarded $4 million in damages, which includes $1 million in punitive damages, after a hearing at Evidentiary Hearing on January 20, 2023. It was entered against Big Olaf Creamery LLC in Sarasota, Florida.

Mary died on January 29, 2022. She is survived by her husband, Richard Bellman, three daughters, Rachel Brown, Kelly Mitsdarver, and Kara Gray, eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Her husband and daughter, Rachel, were holding hands when she passed away after being treated in the emergency room at Memorial South Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, for three days. Intensive care beds are not available.

“Those days and that day have haunted me ever since and will haunt me forever. Knowing now that my family gave her the ice cream that killed her is hard to bear. I also know more about listeria and am more aware of the pain and suffering she was going through while she was in the ER. We needlessly lost the bright light of love and positivity that my mom was.” Richelle is quoted as saying after her mother’s death.

Richard Pillman incurred $89,689 in medical expenses from Memorial Southern Regional Hospital. He also incurred $1,220 in Mary’s cremation expenses.

Punitive damages were sought because Big Olaf Creamery “engaged in behavior so reckless and care-wanting that it constitutes knowing disregard or indifference to the life, health, and safety of individuals,” according to Richard Bellman’s lawsuit.


Mary was one of 28 people from 11 states who contracted a listeria infection. Among them, 27 required hospitalization.

Mary was the only patient who died. Seven diseases were among pregnant women or newborn babies. An illness has led to a pregnancy loss, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Patient samples were collected from January 24, 2021 to August 19, 2022. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 92 years. Half of them are female.

Samples from the patients showed a common strain of Listeria monocytogenes. The same strain is found in equipment at the Big Olaf production facility and in ice cream.

Big Olaf first refused to admit he was the cause of the outbreak and refused to shut down production and halt sales of ice cream.


State officials with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services began investigating the outbreak in the spring of 2022. They performed a complete genome sequence on samples of ice cream and equipment and found the strain of the Listeria outbreak.

The pathogen has been found in 10 environmental factors. Samples at the production facility and in 16 of the 17 flavors of Big Olaf ice cream. In the end, the state stopped the operation.

On July 2, 2022, the federal CDC advised people who had Big Olaf Creamery ice cream at home to throw away any leftover product. On July 13, 2022, Big Olaf Creamery LLC is recalling all flavors, portions, and expiration dates of Big Olaf brand ice cream through June 30, 2022.

The US Food and Drug Administration also conducted an investigation, and on December 9, 2022, it sent a warning letter to Big Olaf. The letter was for the inspection, which ran from July 19 to September 1, 2022.

The warning letter issued by the Food and Drug Administration indicated serious violations of federal food safety laws. It also said that Big Olaf’s owners had sought third-party help to defend their business.

(T) The Company contracted with a third-party laboratory to conduct an environmental survey (revised by the Food and Drug Administration). Multiple pieces of equipment used to manufacture ready-to-eat ice cream products have been reported positive for Listeria monocytogenes by their contracted laboratory, including ( In addition, four swabs from pails of finished product ice cream (revised by the FDA) were reported positive for Listeria monocytogenes,” according to the warning letter.

. . . and according to the warning letter, the company did not prepare or prepare and implement a food safety plan (as required by federal law). During the inspection, the company submitted a draft SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that included various operating procedures intended to address food safety risks associated with its operations. They included a statement that their company would continue (revised by the FDA). However, this draft action did not fully explain how they would ensure control of risks that would require preventive control in their ice cream products.”


Seattle attorney Bill Marler, with the assistance of Florida attorney Jordan L. Chaiken, filed the civil suit in Florida federal court. They sought unspecified damages to Richard Pillman for expenses, loss of his wife’s company, and her role as his companion, as well as any other damages the court saw fit.

The case was based on strict liability, breach of warranty, and negligence. It alleged that Big Olaf’s ice cream was sold in an adulterated state because it was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. It stated that the owners and operators of Big Olaf Creamery have a responsibility to sell pathogen-free food.

“The ice cream products reached the deceased unaltered in their defective condition, and the deceased used the food products for their intended use by consuming them. According to the lawsuit, contamination of the ice cream products by Listeria monocytogenes, a dangerous foodborne pathogen, rendered them defective in that The risks associated with the consumption of ice cream products exceeded the buyer’s reasonable expectations.

“The defendant owes the deceased a duty to design, manufacture, distribute, and sell food that is unadulterated, fit for human consumption, reasonably safe in construction, and free from pathogenic bacteria or other substances harmful to human health. The defendants breached this duty.

“…the defendant owed the deceased a duty of reasonable care in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of ice cream products. Respondent’s compliance with this duty would have prevented or eliminated the risk that ice cream products manufactured, distributed, and sold to customers, such as the deceased, would be contaminated with bacteria dangerous as Listeria monocytogenes. The defendant breached this duty and was therefore negligent.”

In a defense of punitive damages to punish the company for its conduct, the attorney wrote: “… Defendant’s conduct was so reckless and needy that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, health, and safety of individuals.”

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