Marler Clark and Keeney, Waite & Stevens filed a lawsuit today on behalf of Christopher and Karie Galindo, and their daughter, Kayce, who is suffering from a severe E. coli O157:H7 infection after consuming contaminated lettuce at Pat & Oscar’s on September 28. The lawsuit was filed against Gold Coast Produce and Family Tree Produce in San Diego County Superior Court.
As Marler Clark stated in a recent press release:

“This is the second E. coli outbreak linked to contaminated lettuce in two years,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark. “It is outrageous that produce suppliers are not taking proper precautions to keep our food supply safe. Something must be done to protect our children from being served food laced with deadly pathogens.”

Approximately forty people, including Kayce Galindo, became ill with E. coli infections in late September and early October after consuming lettuce at different Pat & Oscar’s restaurants. Several school children became ill after consuming contaminated lettuce served in their school lunches. Marler Clark and Keeney, Waite, & Stevens have been retained by over a dozen victims.
Kayce, a sixteen-year-old student and varsity volleyball player at Carlsbad High School, began experiencing severe abdominal cramping and bloody diarrhea two days after she ate a salad at Pat & Oscar’s, and was hospitalized at Children’s Hospital in San Diego for three days, then was discharged to recuperate. Kayce has again been hospitalized, after developing Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, or HUS, a life-threatening complication of E. coli infections that often leads to kidney failure.

“This latest outbreak is the tenth E. coli outbreak in the last ten years that has been traced to contaminated lettuce,” said Marler, whose firm represents several victims of a similar outbreak last summer that resulted in the illnesses of over fifty campers at a dance camp at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. “The lettuce packaging boasted that the product sold to Pat & Oscars and the School Districts was ‘three-times pre-washed.’ The problem is, if the produce or irrigation water came into contact with cattle or cattle feces during cultivation and harvest, washing would not have prevented any illnesses. The bacteria would have been inside the lettuce, not on the surface.”

As I said in the press release, we filed this lawsuit based on California’s Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Laws and the California Health and Safety Code. Under these laws, a manufacturer of food is “strictly liable” for injuries caused by food that was not “reasonably safe.” A food product is not reasonably safe if it does not meet a consumer’s reasonable expectations of safety. Because consumers reasonably expect the food they consume to be free of pathogens, the manufacturer of any food item that is contaminated with a pathogen, such as E. coli O157:H7 is liable to those who were harmed by consuming the product.

“Typically, when people think about E. coli O157:H7, they think, ‘hamburger,'” Marler concluded. “Consumers understand now that E. coli comes from cattle feces, and are especially careful when cooking ground beef. What they don’t realize is that if farmers aren’t careful, cattle feces can also contaminate fresh produce that doesn’t get cooked to a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria, or doesn’t get cooked at all – as in the case of lettuce.”