A trial date has been set for a lawsuit against Schwan's Food Co. related to a sexual assault in California perpetrated by one of its drivers.
In 2016, a 19-year-old woman was attacked in daylight by a uniformed Schwan's truck driver after her car broke down and she accepted his offer to help fix her tire, according to the lawsuit filed last year against Schwan's and its former driver, Alex Joseph Greene.
In June 2017, Greene was convicted of the assault and sentenced to two years in prison.
The lawsuit said Schwan's — which was founded in Marshall, Minn., and now has its corporate campus in Bloomington — should have performed an adequate background check on Greene before hiring him. Greene had a prior criminal record for assault.
"They should never have hired this guy and never should have put him in a position of trust or power," said Alison Gokal, whose firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of the victim.
Greene is now out of prison and able to participate as a defendant in the civil case, Gokal said. Schwan's also has provided critical discovery documents, so the case should proceed as planned.
Schwan's spokesman Chuck Blomberg said on Monday he could not comment at length about the lawsuit case because it was a pending legal matter.
However, he said the company takes the case "extraordinarily seriously."
"We take seriously our responsibility to uphold the trust we have built with the public," he said. "Our employees are held to high standards, and we conduct thorough background checks before hiring a candidate to one of our positions. If we have reason to believe an employee is violating any laws, policies or the public's trust, we take prompt and appropriate action. In this instance, which occurred nearly three years ago, the individual's employment was terminated when we learned of the charges."
The 13-page lawsuit is filed in the Sonoma County Superior Court in California on behalf of the victim, who is referred to as Jane Doe. She is seeking unspecified damaged for assault, sexual battery, emotional distress, false imprisonment and negligent hiring and training.
After her car broke down, the victim flagged down Greene's truck because she recognized the Schwan's name and thought the company was reputable and responsible, the lawsuit said.
When Greene pulled over, the lawsuit said, he fixed the victim's tire, all the while asking her questions about her age and sex. He then snatched her keys, grabbed her by the legs and carried her to his truck, where he assaulted her.
Before the assault, the lawsuit said, the victim had taken cellphone pictures of the back of Greene's head, his truck and license plate and e-mailed them to her boyfriend. After the assault, she was able to escape, get in her car and drove to a busy intersection where she was met by police, the lawsuit said.
With help from cellphone photos and DNA evidence, Greene was apprehended by police and later confessed to the crime, the complaint said.
The lawsuit claims Schwan's should have known about Greene's prior assault and should not have given him a position in which he had to interact with the public.
Schwan's generates about $3 billion in sales a year to commercial, institutional and home delivery customers.
The trial in the case is set for June 24.