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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Saturday Evening Post (blog post)

Or, Two weeks into my trip “Downunder.”

Being away from the office for the last two weeks has given me an even better appreciation for the hard work and quality of the lawyers and staff at Marler Clark. Looking at what we do from eighteen hours ahead and several thousands of miles makes it clear why corporations and their lawyers simply give up – they are simply wrong.

We continue to make great progress on a variety of outbreak cases – Spinach, Peanut Butter, Veggie Booty, Taco Bell, Seneca Lake Spray Park, Taste of Chicago, United Food Group, Houlihan’s, Quiznos, Wal-Mart, Corky and Lenny’s, Byerly’s and Lunds, Taco Johns and Wendy’s, as well as dozens of isolated food poisoning cases. We are preparing for trial on two severe E. coli cases that will go to trial this fall in New York and New Hampshire.

Between my Blackberry, my Australian disposable phone and the Internet café down the beach, I have been able to keep up and help direct traffic as we work on the above and investigate the Castleberry Botulism cases, Hawaii lettuce E. coli cases.

We are also days away from the one-year anniversary of the Dole Spinach E. coli Outbreak:

Spinach E. coli outbreak – One year later

In late August of 2006, the families of E. coli victims from Oregon, Wisconsin and Utah contacted Marler Clark. The victims had been hospitalized with E. coli infections – two developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) – a life-threatening complication. Public health officials at the CDC and several states were working to determine the source of their illnesses. The victims were told by health officials that the strain of E. coli isolated from their stool samples were genetically indistinguishable, so it was suspected that they had a common exposure to a food product.

Interviews by our staff epidemiologist, Patti Waller, indicated that Dole brand bagged spinach was the likely source of these clients’ illness. Based on the evidence at hand, Marler Clark filed a lawsuit on behalf of our Oregon client on September 14th. Later that day, the FDA and CDC announced that Dole bagged spinach had been identified as the source of an E. coli outbreak, and that all spinach was being recalled. Marler Clark filed a second lawsuit against Dole on behalf of our Wisconsin clients on September 15th.

As the outbreak investigation continued, and we continued to receive more and more complaints from people across the country about having eaten Dole baby spinach, FDA and CDC identified Natural Selections Foods and Mission Organics as the suppliers who had supplied Dole with the contaminated spinach. Hence, we added both as defendants in the growing number of lawsuits we had filed.

93 victims of the outbreak, including 27 HUS victims and three deaths, ultimately retained Marler Clark. Thus far, Dole, Natural Selection and Mission Organics have honored their public commitment, and have responded to our clients’ claims fairly. Nearly 40 cases have been resolved to date. In addition, Dole, Natural Selection and Mission Organics have been pro-active and leaders in the produce industry to address food safety and to help prevent such an outbreak from occurring again.  I have also had the opportunity to talk on several occasions about the Dole spinach outbreak and the dozens of outbreaks that preceded it.  Here is a PowerPoint from a talk.