We filed two lawsuits today – one against Cargill on behalf of a Minnesota boy who became ill after eating an E. coli-contaminated hamburger and another on behalf of a Michigan man who became ill after eating a Salmonella-contaminated turkey pot pie.

In the Minnesota case:

According to the complaint, Scott Reber ate a hamburger made from a Cargill ground beef patty on September 22. By September 25, Scott had developed a gastrointestinal illness with symptoms typical of E. coli infection, and was hospitalized on September 28. While he was hospitalized, Scott’s parents learned that a stool specimen submitted for testing had tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.

Elk River family sues Cargill for E. coli

An Elk River family filed the second E. coli lawsuit against Cargill.  Elk River residents John and Barb Reber’s son Scott, 7, became ill with E. coli after eating a hamburger made from a Cargill ground beef patty.  According to the complaint, Scott ate a hamburger on Sept. 22 and by Sept. 25 had developed a gastrointestinal illness with symptoms typical of E. coli. He was hospitalized on Sept. 28.
And in the Michigan case:

According to the lawsuit, David Small ate a Banquet brand turkey pot pie on Saturday, September 24, 2007 and became ill with symptoms of Salmonella infection the following day. Mr. Small’s symptoms worsened over the next days, and he sought medical attention at Munson Medical Center on September 27, 2007. He was admitted and remained hospitalized until September 29. Mr. Small later learned that his stool specimen had tested positive for Salmonella serotype I 4,[5],12:i:-, the strain associated with the Banquet pot pie outbreak.

TC man sues over tainted pot pie

David Small regularly ate pot pies for lunch, but a recent bout with salmonella prompted the Traverse City man to sue the company that produced the tainted pies.  Small, 51, filed a lawsuit Thursday against ConAgra Foods Inc. and Tom’s Food Markets Inc. after he said he was infected with salmonella in September.  ConAgra recalled all of its store-brand and Banquet pot pies Oct. 11 after a investigation by the Centers for Disease Control linked the tainted pies to recent salmonella outbreaks in several states.

I am not surprised that they found cows and cow poop near spinach fields – I found the same a week ago traveling through Salinas:


From AP story of this morning:  E. coli Find Shows Difficult Mix Of Cattle, Spinach

Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer representing 93 people who got sick eating spinach and the families of two who died, said processors and packagers of greens are also responsible for ensuring their safety.

"From a victim’s perspective, Dole, Natural Selection and this farm are on the hook," Marler said. "It’s their collective responsibility to step up and deal with these claims."

This story also has a great video.

As Tim Hay of the San Mateo County Times reported today, a multinational food company and a Salinas vegetable farm have been ordered to pay an undisclosed amount to an elderly woman who was sickened in an outbreak of E. coli in a local retirement home, as well the son of a woman who died after eating the same tainted spinach in October 2003.
Marler Clark sued Sodexho USA and River Ranch Fresh Foods after an outbreak of the food-borne illness sickened at least 16 people and caused the deaths of two others at the Sequoias Portola Valley retirement community.
County health officials said the outbreak was most likely caused by pre-packaged spinach that Sodexho bought from River Ranch and served at the 315-bed home.
Marler Clark represented Keith McWalter, whose 85-year-old mother, Alice McWalter, died when the E. coli caused kidney failure. Mrs. McWalter was hospitalized on Oct. 14, and suffered 12 days of fever and nausea before she died.
The other Marler Clark client was Sequoias resident Sarah Ish. She was hospitalized with severe nausea during the outbreak, but pulled through.

As the The Salinas Californian reports, legal consequences of two food-borne illness outbreaks that sickened at least 63 people and killed one in 2003 have returned to the Salinas Valley, where state investigators say lettuce and spinach — contaminated at an unknown point before they were eaten — were grown.
Beginning with those infected with E. coli 0157:H7 by the tainted produce, lawsuits have blossomed throughout the food-growing and distribution chain. Now River Ranch Fresh Foods and Diamond Produce, the two companies said to have grown the contaminated lettuce and spinach, have taken preliminary steps toward suing Monterey County.
Lawyers for the two Salinas-area companies say the Monterey County Water Resources Agency failed to maintain Santa Rita Creek, resulting in flooding in 2003 that spread waste across a field where produce was grown.
From the article:

Forty of the customers sickened at Pat & Oscar’s sued the restaurant chain and settled their claims just before Christmas, said Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who represented 29 of them.
Marler also represents the family of McWalter and Sarah Ish, another sickened Sequoias resident, in lawsuits against Sodexho USA, he said.

As the Herald Salinas Bureau reports, Marler Clark clients who were victims of an E. coli outbreak involving contaminated vegetables grown in Salinas Valley are settling their claims against the restaurants serving tainted produce in 2003.
But the legal cases continue while the restaurant owners attempt to pin the blame on Salinas Valley produce companies, and operators of those produce companies blame the Monterey County Water Resources Agency.
Terms of the settlement agreement between the restaurants and the approximately 49 victims of the outbreak are confidential. Not all those claims have been settled, but most have.

Half Moon Bay fruit-juice maker Odwalla Inc. has reached a settlement — reportedly for $12 million to $15 million — with the families of five young victims of a 1996 food-poisoning outbreak caused by a tainted batch of the company’s apple juice.
The hefty settlement brings closer to an end a painful saga for the company and victims’ families, which began when Washington health authorities announced the outbreak at Halloween a year and a half ago. The company now has settled 17 lawsuits, with three remaining.
“It’s behind us now and we will move on,” said Terry Beverly of Seattle, a Microsoft engineer whose son, now 4, hovered near death after being stricken with an advanced stage of poisoning caused by a deadly microbe known as E. coli O157:H7.
“We’re very pleased to be able to fully compensate these children and to move forward with the families and with the lawyers to address the bigger issues of food-safety awareness,” said Chris Gallagher, a company official.


A Washington state court yesterday approved the settlement of a lawsuit under which a 12-year-old girl who nearly died after eating a tainted hamburger will get $15.6 million.
Under the settlement Foodmaker Inc., operator of Jack in the Box restaurants, meat processor Von Stores Inc. and various slaughterhouses will pay the sum to Brianne Kiner, said her lawyer, William Marler.
Kiner, who fell into a 42-day coma after eating a hamburger at a Jack in the Box restaurant in January 1993, was the most seriously affected survivor of meat tainted with the E. coli bacteria that killed three children.

The Washington Supreme Court today declined to review last year’s Court of Appeals decision upholding a $4.6 million award to 11 children injured in a 1998 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that was linked to undercooked taco meat served as part of a school lunch at Finley Elementary School. School District had sought the Supreme Court’s review arguing that school districts should not be held legally responsible if ill-prepared food sickens or kills a student. The Supreme Court refused to consider the argument.
Denis Stearns, one of the founding partners at Marler Clark, said:

“Washington State has a long history of holding school accountable when the children in their care are injured or killed. We believe that the Supreme Court’s decision today reaffirms the principle that, when it comes to preparing food for their students, a school’s foodservice operation should be held to the same high standard as any other restaurant licensed to operate in this State.”
“School-aged children are more vulnerable than most when it comes to exposure to contaminated food. Those who argue for lower-standards plainly do not understand what the problem is, or what is truly at stake. If anything, schools should be held to the highest standards. These are our children we are talking about.”

Continue Reading Marler Clark Heralds Washington Supreme Court Decision Upholding $4.6 Million Jury Award to School Kids Sickened in 1998 E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak

Back in late 2003, Todd Frankel of the Post-Dispatch called dining with me an unusual experience in his article “Seattle attorney is representing 5 of 6 victims in E. coli outbreak,” which referred to the Habaneros E. coli outbreak in Missouri.

I told him:

“I haven’t eaten a hamburger since Jack in the Box,” Marler said, referring to the massive 1993 E. coli outbreak on the West Coast that served as his first experience with his narrow specialty.

“The level of trust we have toward our food supply, in my view, is unwarranted,” Marler said, taking another bite of his salad.

In case you were wondering, I’m still not eating hamburgers.

He also wrote:

He doesn’t go trolling for business, he said. He’s been involved in several high-profile outbreaks: from salmonella in fruit juices to E. coli at an Atlanta water park.

I’m still not trolling. Yet those cases still keep finding me.

Marler Clark has settled with Supervalu and American Foods Group on behalf of the parents of Sonja Pearson, a young girl who became seriously ill after eating E. coli-contaminated ground beef that was supplied by AFG to Supervalu’s Cub Foods subsidiary.

More than 40 people in the Upper Midwest became ill during the E. coli outbreak in December 2000, including Pearson, who was then 2 years old and incurred medical bills for $ 220,000 during a month-long hospital stay for kidney failure caused by the contaminated meat.