I was reading Kim Archer’s story this morning, “E. coli outbreak’s effects remain in Locust Grove,” in the Tulsa World about the largest E. coli O111 outbreak ever. The 2008 outbreak sickened at least 341 people, killed 1 and sent more that 70 to the hospital, many with life-threatening injuries – many still suffer the impacts today. Oklahoma State epidemiologists tracked the bacteria’s source to Country Cottage Restaurant, a popular eating and tourist destination in northeastern Oklahoma.
The reality is that this has been horrible on alll those involved. As I said to Ms. Archer:
About 30 former Country Cottage customers who fell ill have filed lawsuits against the restaurant, according to William Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in foodborne illness litigation.
His firm, Marler Clark, represents 14 clients who were sickened in the outbreak. He said his 14 clients alone racked up $2 million in medical costs. All the lawsuits – including Cynthia Ingle’s, who filed a wrongful death action on behalf of her husband, Chad – have been consolidated into one action in U.S. District Court, he said.
“We’re litigating with the insurance companies over how much coverage the restaurant actually has. Is it $3 million or $4 million,” Marler said.
“How the money gets distributed is still left for another day.”
He expects a ruling sometime after Sept. 1. His firm is providing its services pro bono and is asking each individual’s health insurer to waive reimbursement.
“There is no way people can be fairly compensated,” Marler said. “It’s a horrible tragedy what these people went through.”
If this does not prompt our government to re-think how it deals with Non-O157:H7’s – actually test for them and deem them adulterants – I am not sure whatever will. Perhaps it is time for me to write another letter to the FSIS about the Petition, Petition for an Interpretive Rule Declaring all enterohemorrhagic Shiga Toxin-producing Serotypes of Escherichia coli (E. coli), Including Non-O157 Serotypes, to be Adulterants Within the Meaning of 21 U.S.C. ¬ß 601(m)(1), I filed nearly one year ago.