Header graphic for print

Marler Blog

Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Lawsuit Filed Against Claravale Farm over Tainted Raw Milk

claravale-farm-raw-milkPlaintiff is Santa Cruz resident who was hospitalized and continues to suffer impairing side effects

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Santa Cruz resident John Surbridge who became ill with Campylobacter jejuni after drinking tainted raw milk products from Claravale Farm Company. The defendant, Claravale Farm Company, is based in San Benito County and sells dairy products in the state of California. Surbridge is represented by Marler Clark, a Seattle-based firm specializing food safety, and Rains, Lucia, Stern, PC of San Francisco.

On or around March 19, 2015, Surbridge drank Claravale Farms unpasteurized raw jersey milk, which was purchased by his roommate at a local farmers market.

A few days later, Surbridge began to feel the first symptoms of his illness, which developed into nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, increasingly intense chest pains, and shortness of breath. He began to run a fever that spiked to 103 degrees.

Over the next several days, his symptoms worsened with excruciating stomach and chest pains, uncontrollable diarrhea, and shortness of breath. He was transported via ambulance to the emergency room where, after examination, he was hospitalized for three days.

Soon after being discharged from the hospital, Surbridge was contacted by the Health Services Agency who informed him he had tested positive for Campylobacter. He also then learned of a press release issued on March 24, 2015 about a California Department of Public Health investigation tracing back the illnesses of six northern California residents to multiple bottles of Claravale Farm raw milk that tested positive for Campylobacter. After additional tests, it was confirmed that Surbridge’s illness stemmed from the raw milk he drank from Claravale Farm.

“There’s an assumption that raw milk is better for you, but the reality is that whatever benefits there might be are eliminated by the fact that it can kill you. There’s a reason mass pasteurization of dairy products is the norm—so that people aren’t putting their lives and health at risk by enjoying a glass of milk,” said Bill Marler, principal of Marler Clark. Marler has been working to help improve food safety standards for decades and has represented numerous victims of raw milk contamination.

Even after recovering from a Campylobacter infection, victims can experience side effects for months or years. Surbridge is still being seen regularly by doctors to monitor his recovery. He continues to suffer pain and numbness in his arms, legs, and fingers. He has a difficult time holding onto silverware, cups, and his cell phone. In addition, he continues to struggle with shortness of breath and now has difficulty digesting milk.