Standing in the New Orleans Airport yesterday afternoon, I had a nice chat with Mark Morey of the Yakima Herald about the status of the ConAgra Salmonella Peanut Butter litigation (CDC confirms 714 Illnesses) as well as the filing of yet another suit against ConAgra for manufacturing Salmonella Pot Pies (CDC confirms 272 Illnesses – 27 in Washington State).  His article appeared this morning in the Yakima Herald – Woman sues over tainted pies:

Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who focuses on food safety cases, said Barnes’ case is among 40 that he is handling related to the ConAgra outbreak, which federal health investigators say sickened about 270 people in the United States…. ConAgra said it has improved safety measures, but Marler said Barnes and other victims deserve compensation for their medical treatment…. Marler said the company has not  offered a settlement yet, although he is discussing that possibility as part of other litigation involving tainted ConAgra peanut butter.

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.

The Associated Press has chimed in on the lawsuit we filed against Orchid Island Juice on behalf of Heather Dowdy. From the article:

Heather Dowdy of Caldwell filed the lawsuit against Orchid Island Juice Co. of Fort Pierce, Fla., late Thursday in U.S. District Court. Her lawyer, Seattle food illness specialist Bill Marler, said it may be the first of several cases.
Dowdy’s lawsuit said she drank Orchid Island juice on May 30, then fell ill. She sought treatment at a Virginia hospital June 2 and again June 6, when she was admitted with dehydration. Though she was released June 8, her lawyer — Seattle food illness specialist Bill Marler — said his client has been too sick to return to work.
Marler contends Orchid Island was negligent under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, which requires companies to use raw materials that are “clean, wholesome, and free from adulteration and fit for human consumption.”
“If Orchid Island had only pasteurized their juice, this outbreak would not have occurred,” he said.

Marler Clark has filed a Salmonella lawsuit was against Orchid Island Juice Company of Fort Pierce, Florida, in US District court for the Southern District of West Virginia Thursday (case no. 5:05-CV-0586). The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Heather Dowdy, a Caldwell, West Virginia resident who became ill with a Salmonella infection after consuming Orchid Island unpasteurized orange juice. We have filed the lawsuit along with David Delk, a respected Wheeling, West Virginia, lawyer.
As I told the local (Morgantown, West Virginia) press today:

Ms. Dowdy consumed Orchid Island orange juice on May 30, 2005, and became ill with symptoms of Salmonella infection on May 31. She went to the emergency room in Virginia Beach on June 2, and again on June 6, when she was admitted to the hospital for severe dehydration. Ms. Dowdy was discharged on June 8, but still suffers from complications of Salmonella infection, and has not yet been able to return to work.
“After the Odwalla and Sun Orchard outbreaks in 1996 and 1999, I would have thought that a juice producer would have more sense than to sell unpasteurized juice and risk facing me in a courtroom after they had poisoned their customers,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark. “But I guess the lesson has not been learned by all.”
In the lawsuit, which is based on the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, Marler alleges that “Orchid Island had a duty to use supplies and raw materials . . . free from adulteration and fit for human consumption, but failed to do so.”
Marler continued, “If Orchid Island had only pasteurized their juice, this outbreak would not have occurred. Heather Dowdy went through a terrible ordeal. She and other victims did not deserve this.”

On July 8, 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers against drinking unpasteurized orange juice products distributed by Orchid Island under a variety of brand names. At that point, there were reports of 15 cases of a matching strain of Salmonella bacteria causing illness in consumers in Michigan, Ohio, and Massachusetts. At least 16 other states reported cases of Salmonella that matched the specific strain found in Orchid Island orange juice. On July 15, 2005, Orchid Island issued a nationwide recall of fresh and frozen unpasteurized orange juice (see http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/orchidislandjuice07_15.html). The CDC indicated that as many as 82 cases have been confirmed nationwide.

As the Associated Press reported today, undercooked turkey at a Camden restaurant is most likely the cause of one of the worst food-borne illness outbreaks in South Carolina in recent years, the state health department said Friday.
More than 300 people were sickened and one 58-year-old man died after eating at the Old South Restaurant in Camden about two weeks ago. Some 56 people also were hospitalized, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
My firm is representing nine people who became sick after eating at the restaurant. Like I told Jacob Jordon of the AP, before the restaurant reopens, the buffet should think about how it’s going to compensate those that were sickened.
From the article:

“There’s not going to be even remotely … enough money to compensate these victims,” Marler said. “I don’t like to see restaurants put out of business. Errors happen and they happen, unfortunately, all too frequently.”
Marler said he will consider a possible class-action lawsuit, possibly waiving attorney fees so that those sickened can get as much money as possible.
“My focus is on preventing future outbreaks and coming up with some methodology of fairly compensating innocent victims,” he said.

Bankrupt Coronet Foods is now facing a lawsuit by 92 people from several states. On Wednesday a judge ruled the people who claim they got sick after eating tainted roma tomatoes could sue the store that sold them, and the company that supplied them, Wheeling based Coronet Foods.
“It’s clear that the tomatoes were supplied by Coronet. Under the law they are strictly liable, said the attorney representing the complainants, Bill Marler.
Coronet laid-off their entire workforce after the salmonella outbreak when more than 400 people got sick. The judges ruling says now they are responsible for those who got sick. The attorney representing those who say they got salmonella says he would like to settle the dispute outside of court through mediation. He says coronet was against it.
“Coronet and their insurance company were simply not interested in doing that. The bankruptcy court therefore allowed us to get out of bankruptcy court and file our claims in state court, said Marler.
The president of Coronet says he just found out about the ruling but his attorney says mediation was not a problem.
“We didn’t object to mediation. We believe mediation probably would be the best thing for all of these claims. We want to make sure everyone who had some potential responsibility was involved in mediation, said Coronet Attorney, Eric Anderson.
Meantime, the plaintiffs are asking the judge for what they call full and fair compensation.

As the Associated Press reported today, a West Virginia federal bankruptcy judge has allowed us to sue on behalf of more than 80 people who were sickened by salmonella-tainted tomatoes the company supplied the tomatoes and the Sheetz convenience store chain.
Federal Judge L. Edward Friend II signed an order yesterday allowing plaintiffs to sue Coronet Foods Inc., a bankrupt Wheeling, W.Va., company, and Sheetz after attorneys for Coronet said they didn’t want to mediate the lawsuits.
Coronet shut down in October and filed bankruptcy shortly after a few lawsuits were filed. The company has $11 million worth of insurance covering it.
Food inspectors also said Coronet and Sheetz did nothing wrong, but under the law they can be held liable because they supplied and prepared the tomatoes for human consumption.

In an article yesterday by the Associated Press, I said I no longer plan to sue Sheetz, the convenience store chain who sickened over 400 people with salmonella-tainted tomatoes. But I’m still planning to sue Coronet Foods, the bankrupt company which supplied the tomatoes. A bankruptcy judge signed an order Wednesday allowing Coronet to be sued.
More than 400 people were sickened last year in Pennsylvania and eight other states after eating tomatoes served at Sheetz stores.
As I told the AP, most claims will be for less than $100,000 to cover medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Marler Clark filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of seven people who became ill with Salmonella Enteriditis infections after eating Paramount Farms raw almonds between September, 2003 and May, 2004. The lawsuit was filed in the South Judicial District of the Los Angeles County Superior Court (Case No. NC036770).
All seven plaintiffs had Salmonella infections linked to almonds manufactured and sold by Paramount Farms. Paramount Farms recalled roughly eighteen million pounds of almonds in May, 2004 after the CDC traced the Salmonella illnesses of 29 people in twelve states and Canada to consumption of Paramount’s raw almonds between September, 2003 and May, 2004.
“We have been working to settle our clients’ Salmonella claims against Paramount Farms for almost a year now,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark. “Unfortunately, Paramount has not made reasonable offers to our clients to settle their claims”
The plaintiffs are residents of California, Washington, and Arizona. Marler Clark previously filed Salmonella lawsuits against Paramount Farms on behalf of a Kennewick, Washington family and a Renton, Washington, man who suffered from reactive arthritis, a complication of Salmonella infection.
“At this point, we feel that the only chance of obtaining just compensation for our clients is letting a jury decide the value of these claims,” Marler concluded.

Marler Clark today announced the settlement of two salmonella cases stemming from the May, 2001 salmonella outbreak tied to contaminated cantaloupe.

The cases settled were the wrongful death case of 78-year old Florence Dodds and the personal injury case of fifteen month old Nathan Eget.

On May 25, 2001 the FDA issued a press release warning consumers about Viva Brand imported cantaloupe. The FDA advised consumers of an outbreak of salmonella poona linked to cantaloupe imported to the U.S. by Shipley Sales Service of Nogales, Arizona. The outbreak was implicated in numerous illnesses and one death in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington State. The FDA detained all cantaloupe imported by Shipley Sales Service and took steps to prevent the importation of any additional contaminated cantaloupe.

Ms. Dodds, a resident of Hemet, California, endured significant physical and mental suffering as a result of the salmonella infection prior to her death. Her family incurred nearly $10,000 in medical expenses as a result of her death. “Deaths for salmonella poisoning are quite rare, but according to the CDC, about 1,000 people die annually in the Untied States. This was an unfortunate, but completely preventable tragedy,” said William Marler, attorney at Marler Clark.

Nathan Eget is the son of Liz and Rick Eget of Tarzana, California. On Wednesday, April 25, 2001, Nathan began to experience serious and unusual symptoms of illness. For three days, Nathan had severe diarrhea and vomiting. He had a constant fever, would not eat, and was extremely lethargic and listless. On Tuesday, May 1, it was discovered that Nathan had grown a Salmonella culture from one of his blood samples, and that there was a bacterial infection in his blood. Since this was a much more serious diagnosis then originally suspected. Nathan was immediately transferred to the ICU for observation, because dangerous side effects could occur after the antibiotic treatment. Nathan’s temperature continued to rise, he remained completely lethargic, his stomach became extremely distended, and his diarrhea continued to the point where he needed to be changed every hour. He remained hospitalized for over a week. His family incurred over $40,000 in medical expenses.