While I was sitting in a USDA/FSIS/FDA/CDC meeting on E. coli today, we also filed a lawsuit seeking punitive damages against Topps, the New Jersey beef supplier that recalled nearly a year’s supply of frozen ground beef patties after its products were identified as the source of an E. coli outbreak in September. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Groton, New York, residents Keith and Kristin Goodwin and their 8-year-old son, Lucas, in Tompkins County Supreme Court.
In the lawsuit, we allege that Topps had knowledge of consumer illness tied to its products and a positive E. coli sample from its ground beef patties no later than September 8th, seven days before Kristin and Lucas Goodwin ate Topps hamburgers. Both mom and son were hospitalized on September 24th, and both later tested positive for a genetically indistinguishable strain of E. coli O157:H7 from that isolated from Topps ground beef patties. Kristin was released from the hospital on September 26th, but Lucas developed hemolytic uremic syndrome and remained hospitalized for eight days. While they were hospitalized, Topps recalled 332,000 pounds of ground beef products. The company later expanded the recall to include 21.7 million pounds of ground beef. As I said in a press statement:
“We are asking for punitive damages because had the company acted responsibly and recalled its products the day they discovered the E. coli contamination, Kristin and Lucas’ infections could have been prevented. It was poor judgment on the part of Topps, and although Topps paid for this mistake by going out of business, consumers like the Goodwins paid with their health.”