The first Georgia lawsuit stemming from National E. coli outbreak linked to six states was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division against Nebraska Beef Limited.  The complaint was filed on behalf of Evelyn and John M. Stewart of Moultrie, Georgia.

The lawsuit states that on June 20, 2008 the Stewarts ate at the Barbeque Pit in Moultrie, Georgia.  Days later, Mrs. Stewart began having bloody diarrhea and signs of renal failure.  She was admitted to the Colquitt Regional Medical Center, where she tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 and was diagnosed with HUS, or Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a severe and life-threatening complication.  On June 26, she was transferred to the Archbold Memorial Hospital Medical Intensive Care Unit in Thomasville, GA, where she continues to battle the complications of the infection.

A cluster of E. coli illnesses appeared in Colquitt County in late June, and were traced to the Barbeque Pit, located at 311 First Ave. S.E., in Moultrie, Georgia.  The restaurant closed voluntarily on July 3, and has been involved in rigorous testing and disinfection procedures.  Eight cases of E. coli have been lab-confirmed, and four are pending results.  Four of the victims have developed HUS.  The Georgia cases have been genetically matched to the outbreak in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, New York, Utah, and Indiana.  The multi-state outbreak has been traced to tainted meat from Nebraska Beef Ltd. of Omaha, NE, which was a supplier to the Barbeque Pit in Moultrie.  At least 60 have fallen ill in seven states.  

“Where is the legislation to prevent these illnesses?” asks William Marler, the Stewart’s attorney.  “These people should not be in ICU, fighting for their lives, just because they went out to dinner.  We have the ability to legislate, regulate, and eliminate E. coli from our food supply, and we need to see Congressional action.”

“After changes in meat regulation dropped recall amounts from 23 million pounds in 2002 to only 181,900 pounds in 2006, 39 million pounds of E. coli tainted meat has been recalled since the spring of 2007.  The numbers have just shot up in the last year,” says Marler, “and so have illnesses.  If this was a serial killer—which, actually, it is—every resource in this country would have been mobilized against it.  Nothing less is acceptable.”

WALB TV reported – “A South Georgia family filed a lawsuit Monday over that E. coli outbreak in Moultrie.” As I said:

"The bottom line for us is Nebraska Beef has the opportunity and the obligation to make sure that this nasty bug is not on the meat that they sell to the public," said Attorney Bill Marler Esq., Marler Clark LLP PS of Seattle, Washington.

Marler is no stranger to food-borne illness, he filed the class action lawsuit against ConAgra Foods after that Sylvester Peanut Butter Salmonella outbreak last year. Marler told WALB News 10 that this isn’t his first suit against Nebraska Beef.

"We sued Nebraska Beef based on a 2006 church supper up in upstate Minnesota, that killed a woman and put another in the hospital for months we sued on both those ladies behalves and interestingly Nebraska beef has cross claimed against the church," said Marler.

That case is still unresolved. Marler urges tougher legislation to prevent these illnesses, keeping people out of ICU. In Stewart’s case, she continues to fight for her life, having undergone dialysis and plasma replacements and a seizure that stopped her breathing.

That’s why they’re asking Nebraska Beef to step up and help pay medical expenses that are expected to cost the family three quarters of a million dollars.

As the Moultrie Observer reported – First E. coli suit filed – Moultrian Evelyn Stewart represented by Seattle law firm