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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

First Romaine Lettuce E. coli Lawsuit to be Filed

Yesterday I spoke to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the CDC’s announcement of the link between Romaine lettuce, 10 states and 60 ill:

A Seattle attorney who specializes in food-borne illness cases said he plans to file a lawsuit against Schnucks and other companies in the distribution chain within days on behalf of a St. Louis woman who developed kidney disease.

The requirements for proving a case in civil litigation are not as stringent as what the CDC or FDA might need to confirm the source of an illness, according to the lawyer.

“Most of the time you are never able to trace it back to a farm because by the time people are eating the lettuce, (it) has already been pulled out of the field,” said Bill Marler. “It’s still the responsibility of the chain of distribution for the food that they served the people. Those entities are still legally responsible for the injuries to their customers.”

Screen Shot 2011-12-08 at 1.38.27 PM.pngToday we are in the process of filing suit on behalf of a St. Louis woman who was hospitalized with an E. coli O157:H7 infection after consuming romaine lettuce at a local Schnucks supermarket salad bar.   The complaint is being filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court on behalf of Mary Kozlowski who ate romaine lettuce at a Schnucks salad bar three times in October.  By October 21, she began experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms indicative of an E. coli infection.  Ms. Kozlowski was admitted to Mercy Hospital on October 27.  Her condition continued to deteriorate and she developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication of E. coli infection that caused her kidneys to fail.   Ms. Kozlowski was also treated for anemia, an irregular heartbeat, severe fluid retention, and a pulmonary embolism. Ms. Kozlowski was released from the hospital on November 7; however, she still suffers ongoing symptoms related to her illness and has sustained permanent damage to her kidneys.

Ms. Kozlowski’s illness is one of at least 60 E. coli illnesses associated with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling a 10-state E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce used in salad bars in various Schnucks stores.  According to a CDC report published December 7, the romaine lettuce came from a single source, though neither Schnucks nor the CDC has released its name. The romaine lettuce was also served at universities in Minnesota and Missouri.