Montco man, 19 others drop suits to negotiate over E. coli illnesses

Patrick Lester of The Morning Call wrote this morning:

A Montgomery County man and others sickened by an E. coli outbreak at Taco Bell last year could receive out-of-court settlements ranging from $25,000 to $500,000 from the fast-food restaurant chain, an attorney said.  In the more severe cases, E. coli victims could receive millions of dollars.

Stephen Minnis of Limerick Township and several others who became ill after eating food from the Mexican-food chain have agreed to drop lawsuits while Seattle-based attorney Bill Marler tries to reach financial settlements with the chain’s lawyers.

”We’ve got a promise from Taco Bell that it will immediately mediate these cases,” said Marler, who represents Minnis and 19 others who say Taco Bell’s food made them ill. ”I’m going to sit down with them in the next 30 days and try to resolve them. If we can’t come to an agreement, we can refile the cases.”  ”Every indication I’ve had from Taco Bell lawyers is that they want to seriously sit down and get these cases resolved .”

Marler said that, based on past food poisoning cases he’s successfully argued, he believes each victim could receive at least tens of thousands of dollars for medical bills and other damages. He said he has resolved close to $300 million worth of food poisoning cases in 15 years .

Minnis and others ”who may have been hospitalized for a short period and did not develop complications can [receive] from $25,000 or $30,000 to half a million dollars depending on the severity of the case,” Marler said. ”Any case where someone develops [severe health problems] could be worth multiple millions of dollars.”  Marler pointed to one ”severe” case in which he claims a Pennsylvania woman was in a coma for at least three days and suffered kidney damage caused by E. coli. That woman is still being cared for by multiple doctors.  Marler said the woman suffers from a form of kidney failure known as hemolytic urenic syndrome, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a life-threatening condition that is often treated with blood transfusions and kidney dialysis.

”Anyone who develops HUS has a case value in excess of $500,000 and up,” Marler said. ”I’ve settled multiple cases involving kids and adults with HUS. These are very complex cases and have risks of future complications.”