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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Utah Wendy’s E. coli O121:H19 Outbreak Litigation Settled Today

After nearly two years of work, we were able to settle today the last severe E. coli O121:H19 Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) cases related to illnesses stemming in part from a teachers’ conference luncheon in June 2006.  According to the Weber-Morgan Health Department (WMHD), at least three attendees had contracted E. coli O121:H19 stool culture positive infections.  On August 2, 2006, the WMHD issued a news release indicating that those people had been infected with E. coli O121:H19, and that two of the individuals had developed HUS.  WMHD stated that the evidence indicated that all three people contracted E. coli from the same source sometime during June 27-30 at the Wendy’s restaurant in Ogden, Utah.  By August 7, WMHD officials had revised the number of outbreak victims to four, including three who had developed HUS.

WMHD further concluded that the source of the infection was contaminated iceberg lettuce prepared at the Wendy’s Restaurant and sourced from California.  One of the patients with confirmed HUS, who had not attended the teacher’s conference, ate cheeseburgers with iceberg lettuce at the Wendy’s Restaurant during the outbreak period.  The second confirmed HUS case was an attendee of the teachers’ conference, and a third case of HUS was determined to be secondary transmission from an infected person at the conference.

We represented all of the HUS and culture-confirmed cases.  Eventually, WMHD determined that at least 69 people had become ill in the outbreak.  Of those, three remained hospitalized for an extended period and were listed in serious to critical condition.  The settlement amounts are confidential.