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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Murrieta family suing Organic Pastures and Sprouts in E. coli case

The first paragraph of the North County Times article says it all:

“A Murrieta couple says it was raw milk tainted with a strain of E. coli that nearly killed their son. The owner of Organic Pastures Dairy in Fresno, where the raw milk came from, and the Sprouts store in Temecula, where the milk was purchased, each say there is no proof they are at fault.

Each side sees the facts of the case differently – It will now likely be up to a jury to decide.

According to Sprouts – The Martins bought the raw milk Chris drank in September 2006, from Sprouts on Winchester Road in Temecula. When contacted recently, Sprouts store owner Linda Watson said, "There is no information I know of that any E. coli in any raw milk was sold at our store, or anywhere else for that matter."

According to Organic Pastures – Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures Dairy in Fresno (see video and other video) says there is no proof that his company is at fault, as also alleged in the lawsuit. "When a person sues for a food-related illness, they must be able to show a connection between a product and the person," McAfee said. "There isn’t a connection here." McAfee said the pathogen was not found in any of the manure tests of his cows or in any tests of packaged dairy products from his business. "Because there isn’t any connection, we feel confident we have a very strong defense," he said.  See California State Report.

According to the Martins – The Seattle-based attorney representing the Martins in their lawsuit has a different opinion. "Under California law, the whole distribution chain is strictly liable," William Marler said of both the dairy and the store. "We don’t have to prove the store did anything wrong or was negligent, just that it was in the product. "Selling unpasteurized milk is a risk stores shouldn’t be willing to take," he said, adding that children and elderly are at "extreme risk" from pathogens that might be in such a product. "The message here is, whether it is raw or pasteurized milk, you have to be willing to take the responsibility of making sure your product is safe for your consumers," Marler said. Marler says he has handled thousands of E. coli cases over the last 15 years, including the infamous Jack in the Box meat case. He said jury settlements are typically in the millions of dollars in E. coli lawsuits, citing one Jack in the Box settlement in which $15.6 million was awarded in the case of just one child.

We also represent another child – Herzog.

  • Josh Broten

    First I’d like to say I hope their son is OK but Is it not the parent’s obligation to head the warnings posted on the signs outside of the cooler that consuming raw milk may be dangerous and you’re taking these matters into their own hands. If you read the warnings they portray that you are taking your life into your own hands by drinking raw milk, especially elderly or children? It is very disappointing that someone would use our legal system to penalize the majority of us who benefit from raw milk and paint a picture that it’s unhealthy when we’ve been drinking it as a species for thousands of years. Funny they hire the lawyer from the infamous jack in the box e. coli case to take advantage of a real food that provides supreme nutrients that are difficult to come by for the informed consumer. Is their child is the only reported case?