November 2005

As the L.A. Business Journal reported today, Dole Food Co. Inc. has been sued over the past few weeks by consumers who contracted a serious form of E. coli from its bagged salads, one of the company’s fastest-growing product lines.
So far, lawsuits have been filed involving five people in Minnesota and Oregon who suffered stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea or kidney failure from eating three varieties of the bagged salads. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reported more than 20 people in those states, as well as in Wisconsin, have gotten sick from Dole’s salads.
Westlake Village-based Dole, which is working with state and federal investigators to determine the source of the contamination, has recalled 250,000 bags from grocery store shelves.
The recalls involve Dole’s “Classic Romaine,” “American Blend” and “Greener Selection” varieties. An Oct. 2 FDA alert advises consumers to throw away those three types of Dole salads that have “best if used by” dates of Sept. 22 and Sept. 23.
From the article:

“It’s pretty clear Dole has been definitively implicated in this,” said Bill Marler, a partner at Marler Clark who has filed the lawsuits.
Marler, who has been handling E. coli cases for more than a decade, said the lettuce gets contaminated because of groundwater problems on the farms or consumers not washing the lettuce after they open the bags. But identifying the root cause of the contamination is difficult, he said.
“We sued Dole because they are the clear manufacturer,” he said. “They’re the ones bagging it and have their name on it.”

Marler Clark filed a third E. coli lawsuit against Dole late Tuesday in United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Lori Olson, a Minneapolis resident, and her two minor daughters.
The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Olson’s daughters, 15-year-old Amanda Brister, and 11-year-old Amber Brister, became ill with symptoms of E. coli infections in late September. Both sisters were confirmed by the health department to be part of the outbreak that has affected at least 23 people in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area who became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating Dole bagged salads at the end of September. Dole issued a nationwide recall of over 250,000 bags of lettuce on October 2.
Amanda and Amber Brister both became ill with diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping days after eating the contaminated lettuce, but while Amanda’s symptoms gradually lessened and subsided, Amber’s became more intense. Amber’s symptoms were so severe that her mother took her to the Hennepin county medical Center Emergency Room on September 28. She was immediately admitted to the hospital, and was transferred to Fairview University Children’s Hospital on October 2 after she was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (see Amber went into renal failure, and spent eighteen days undergoing kidney dialysis. She received four blood transfusions. Amber was discharged from Children’s Hospital on October 31, after spending 34 days in the hospital.
“We expect that medical bills will be at least $200,000 for the acute phase of Amber’s illness, with more medical expenses to be expected in the future,” said William Marler, attorney for the family. “Add to that the fact that the family had no medical insurance, and that Lori lost her job because she spent nearly 24 hours a day at Children’s Hospital for the last month, and this family is in a serious financial crisis. Dole has offered no assistance.”