April 2004

My firm has filed lawsuits in Milwaukee on behalf of four children who were sickened by E. coli after eating at Sizzler restaurants. As the Associated Press reports, more than 60 people got sick and a 3-year-old South Milwaukee girl died after eating at the restaurants in July 2000. Investigators blamed Sizzler’s meat handling procedures for the contamination.

Milwaukee County Judge Michael Sullivan ruled in May 2002 that Excel couldn’t be sued for supplying the beef to Sizzler restaurants in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa. Excel’s attorneys had argued the company wasn’t liable because it didn’t mishandle the meat and complied with U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections before shipping.

But a state appeals court overturned that ruling a year later, saying even though federal authorities inspected the meat, the processor still had to make sure it was safe. The court reinstated 14 lawsuits against Excel. Excel appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear the appeal, clearing the way for the lawsuits.

“It is time for the company to take responsibility for its actions and compensate victims of its negligence,” said William Marler, managing partner of law firm Marler Clark, which is representing the children.

Joe Mandak of the Associated Press reported today that 14 out of 15 hepatitis claims against Chi Chi’s were settled in first mediation sessions. Two settlements involve more than $35,000 each, so they’ll have to be approved by the bankruptcy judge.

“The amount of the settlements are confidential, although the cases we resolved are certainly none of the long-term hospitalized cases or deaths or liver transplants,” said attorney William Marler, whose Seattle-based firm Marler Clark specializes in tainted food litigation.

“What we dealt with is people who were sick for three to six weeks and had your standard, but horrible, hepatitis A infection,” Marler said of the first round of mediation, which occurred privately late last week near Pittsburgh.
A second round of mediation is being scheduled for late next month, Marler said.

The cost of mediation is being split between plaintiffs’ attorneys. My firm represents 85 of the 300 plaintiffs. Most of the others are represented by local Pittsburgh attorneys.

Chi-Chi’s will try to recoup some of its losses from the onion suppliers through bankruptcy proceedings, Marler said.

As Kenneth Vogel of the News Tribune reported in his article Initiatives have early momentum; November: Four committees have raised $130,000-plus, four initiative committees this week reported raising more than $130,000 each – a sign that the measures they’re supporting have a legitimate shot at appearing on the November ballot.

Investor Nicolas Hanauer and a law firm co-owned by Locke ally Bill Marler contributed $125,000 of the $146,000 raised by the committee backing the education sales-tax initiative, I-884, which Locke supports.

I-884 would increase the sales tax by 1 percent to raise $1 billion for education.