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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Victims of 2005 E. coli petting zoo outbreak reach settlement with petting zoo operator, Florida Strawberry Festival

Two victims of the 2005 E. coli outbreak traced to a petting zoo at the Florida Strawberry Festival resolved claims brought against the festival last week. Both victims, a woman and a young child, suffered hemolytic uremic syndrome (www.about-hus.com) and required extensive medical treatment, including dialysis, after contracting E. coli O157:H7 at the 2005 Florida Strawberry Festival.
“Our clients and their families are happy to have this litigation behind them,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm that has successfully represented hundreds of E. coli outbreak victims in similar lawsuits.

The 2005 Florida E. coli outbreak was the 16th documented outbreak traced to animal exposure at a fair or petting zoo since 2000, including a widely publicized E. coli outbreak in North Carolina that occurred just months before. “The Florida Strawberry Festival had plenty of opportunities to become educated about the risks associated with animal exhibits, and petting zoos in particular, but didn’t bother to access the information available and act on existing recommendations to prevent illness among its patrons,” said, co-counsel, Michael Heilmann, noting potential sources of information available before the outbreak:

  • In 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “Compendium of Measures To Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings” in an October Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
  • In 2003, authors of a study on the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in livestock at 29 county and 3 large state agricultural fairs in the United States found that E. coli O157:H7 could be isolated from 13.8% of beef cattle, 5.9% of dairy cattle, 3.6% of pigs, 5.2% of sheep, and 2.8% of goats. Over seven percent of pest fly pools also tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 (Keene et al, 2003).
  • In 2004, Marler Clark launched www.fair-safety.com, a Web site designed to inform users of the risks related with human-animal contact in fair and petting zoo settings.
  • Also in 2004, Marler presented on legal liability at the International Association of Fairs and Expositions’ 114th Annual Convention and Trade Show.

BACKGROUND: Marler Clark (www.marlerclark.com) is a law firm dedicated to representing victims of outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli O157:H7. The firm currently represents over 100 victims of last year’s E. coli outbreaks traced to spinach and lettuce, and nearly 5,000 victims of the recent Salmonella outbreak traced to contaminated peanut butter, and nine victims of the 2004 North Carolina State Fair petting zoo E. coli outbreak.