Barbara LaBoe of The Daily News reported today that both the state and an unlicensed Woodland dairy may be sued on behalf of two children sick with E. coli.
From the article:
Parents of two of the children sickened after drinking unpasteurized milk from Dee Creek Farm asked Seattle lawyer Bill Marler to look into their case, he said Sunday. Marler is an E. coli expert, who worked on both the Jack in the Box and Odwalla juice E. coli cases.
Twenty-one people who drank unpasteurized, or raw, milk from Dee Creek developed E. coli symptoms. Five Clark County children were hospitalized and two remain in critical condition. Preliminary state tests linked the DNA of four of the E. coli cases Saturday, further bolstering officials’ belief the bacteria came from Dee Creek milk.
Marler wouldn’t identify which two Clark County families contacted him, but said they had “very sick” children.
State officials and the farm’s owners, Anita and Michael Puckett, could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Marler will represent the children — who could face millions in lifetime medical needs — since the parents have some culpability issues because they purchased the unpasteurized milk.
“It’s a tragedy all around,” he said. “Even though the parents purchased the milk their kids consumed, they certainly didn’t anticipate that the product would have a deadly pathogen in it that could kill their kids. We’re investigating what opportunity or what rights the kids have as it relates to making sure their long-term health needs are met.”
In addition to the farm owners — whom Marler said had a responsibility to produce a safe product — the state’s liability also will be investigated. Dee Creek did not have the required state license to sell unpasteurized milk and was warned by state officials in August that they were violating the law.
“We’ll certainly look at the responsibility of the state and what the state knew,” Marler said.
Marler also hopes to raise awareness about the dangers of E. coli and cause lawmakers to rethink the rationale of allowing unpasteurized milk to be sold and consumed.
“Being that we were the epicenter of the Jack-in-the-Box and Odwalla juice outbreaks, you’d think that we as a state would have known better,” he said.
Marler won a record-setting $15.6 million settlement for one family in the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli case, according to his Web site. In 1998, he negotiated a reported $12 million settlement for the families of children who fell ill after drinking E. coli contaminated Odwalla juice.