June 2006

As the Associated Press reported today, attorneys for Sheetz convenience stores and scores of customers sickened during a salmonella outbreak two years ago have settled more than 80 lawsuits in recent weeks and agreed to delay a filing deadline in hopes that dozens of other claims might settle.
Saturday marks the two-year anniversary of the outbreak, which was traced to salmonella-tainted Roma tomatoes. Ordinarily, that would also represent the statute of limitations for some suits, but attorneys for Sheetz, its customers and various insurance companies involved have agreed to push that back to July 21.

Continue Reading Deadline extended amid settlements in Sheetz outbreak

The Herald Salinas Bureau has also reported on the Dole lawsuit settlements. In her article “Dole settles E. coli lawsuits,” Dania Akkad writes:

Five lawsuits filed in response to an E. coli outbreak traced to Dole Fresh Vegetable bagged salads in Minnesota last fall have been settled.
Bill Marler, an attorney for the nine plaintiffs involved, said the settlements with parent company Dole Food Company Inc. were reached in the past month. Among the plaintiffs was a 12-year-old girl who suffered kidney failure after eating the salad and was featured in a “Dateline” report televised in April on E. coli and bagged salads.
Both parties declined to disclose the details of the settlements.
“We’re very pleased to get the cases resolved,” said Marler, an attorney with Seattle’s Marler Clark law firm which has represented clients against Odwalla and Jack-in-the-Box in other foodborne illness cases.
Marler praised Dole and its insurance company for “stepping up and ultimately doing the right thing.”
“In many instances, companies don’t do that,” he said, adding that some companies will fight cases like this for years in court. “I think Dole correctly got this thing behind them…. It’s the way corporations should act.”

marler clark logoJack in the Box and Foodmaker, Inc. E. coli Litigation
More than 600 people were sickened, and four children died, following a 1993 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that was blamed on consumption of undercooked hamburgers from Jack in the Box restaurants in Washington and other Western states.
The outbreak was traced to ground beef from wholesaler Von Companies of California, and sold by Jack in the Box franchises across the West. Documents from Foodmaker, the San Diego-based parent company, showed that the company had been warned by local health departments and by their own employees that they were undercooking their hamburgers. But the company had decided that cooking beef to the Washington State standard of 155 degrees made the meat too tough.
The sickest victims were mostly younger children, including four who eventually died. A nine-year-old Seattle girl, who recovered after being in a coma for 42 days, won a $15.6 million settlement from the company. Bill Marler represented over 100 plaintiffs in the case, and Bruce Clark and Denis Stearns represented Foodmaker, the parent company of jack in the Box, in litigation totaling $50 million and spanning several years.
The widely-publicized outbreak and litigation led to widespread changes in food-safety practices at restaurants across the country.
Odwalla E. coli O157:H7 Litigation
Marler Clark represented most of the most-affected victims of an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 traced to Odwalla apple juice in 1996. At least 70 persons were sickened, and a 16-month-old Colorado girl died, from drinking juice that was not pasteurized.
The sickest victims were children in Seattle, Colorado and Washington, D.C., several of whom suffered from hemolytic uremic syndrome and permanent kidney damage. Odwalla, based in Half Moon Bay, California, eventually paid a multi-million-dollar settlement to the victims and their families.
Odwalla had built its reputation for producing “fresh” juice with no preservatives. But investigators eventually concluded that its juices contained dangerously high bacterial contamination – so much that the U.S. Army had refused to buy Odwalla products.
The apple juice is believed to have become contaminated via apples that fell off trees and into cow manure before being harvested for juice. The case had a nationwide impact, demonstrating that food-borne illness can be contracted from fresh produce as well as meats.
Odwalla began pasteurizing its juices after the 1996 outbreak.
Sun Orchard Orange Juice Salmonella Litigation
During June and July of 1999, 15 states and two Canadian provinces had reported 207 confirmed cases of Salmonella infection associated with a single source. By early July 1999, 85 persons with this illness were identified in Washington State alone.
Epidemiological investigations by the health departments linked the outbreak of a relatively rare strain of Salmonella to unpasteurized orange juice products produced by Sun Orchard, Inc., an Arizona based company. Similar strains of Salmonella were eventually detected in unopened containers of Sun Orchard juice products, and in blenders where smoothies were made. Genetic matches were quickly established between the lab results of the stool cultures from victims and the Sun Orchard product.
Sun Orchard voluntarily announced a recall of all of its unpasteurized orange juice products on June 25, 1999. The Food and Drug Administration, on July 10, 1999, issued a nationwide warning to consumers against drinking unpasteurized orange juice products distributed under a variety of brand names by Sun Orchard, Inc. due to the continuing reports of illness related to the product.
Marler Clark represented 55 victims of the outbreak in a class action lawsuit against Sun Orchard. The firm settled the lawsuit for a reported $1.4 million.
Evergreen Milton-Freewater Rehabilitation Center Litigation
Marler Clark filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Evergreen Milton-Freewater Rehabilitation Center on behalf of the family of an elderly resident who suffered debilitating injuries, which led to her death, in the rehabilitation center. Both of Naomi W.’s legs were fractured when an Evergreen employee who was transferring her from her bed to a chair let her fall to the floor. Following the fall, the employee did not seek medical attention for Naomi, but instead placed her back in her bed. Evergreen employees did not seek medical attention for Naomi for two days following the incident. Naomi passed away while she was undergoing rehabilitation for her earlier injuries.
The lawsuit asks that a jury award the estate of Naomi for her disability, pain, and suffering that resulted from her fall, and for expenses for medical services and memorial services.

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