20 Years of Marler Clark


To celebrate 20 years of the Marler Clark food safety lawfirm, we put together a slideshow of our biggest cases. We are immensely proud of the work we do to represent those affected by foodborne illness.

Brianne Kiner – The 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak

In 1993, the Washington State Department of Health launched an investigation into an uncommonly high incidence of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) among Seattle-area children. It traced the source of their illnesses back to E. coli O157:H7 bacteria that had contaminated hamburger patties sold at area Jack in the Box restaurants. In the following weeks, Idaho, California and Nevada reported numerous cases of E. coli infection among residents that had eaten at Jack in the Box restaurants. The scope of the outbreak widened.    

Ultimately, 73 different Jack in the Box locations were linked to the E. coli outbreak. The bacteria sickened over 700 people in four states (602 of them from Washington) and led to 171 hospitalizations and 4 deaths.  

The investigation into the outbreak eventually identified five slaughterhouses in the United States and one in Canada as possible sources of the bacteria, but the exact source of the contaminated meat, produced by the Von Corporation of California, was never pinpointed.  

Further investigation revealed that Foodmaker, Inc., parent company of Jack in the Box, had been warned by local health departments and its own employees that its hamburgers were being undercooked, but had decided that cooking them to the required 155 degrees made them too tough.  

Brianne Kiner, nine years old at the time, suffered one of the worst of the illnesses resulting from this culinary choice.  Brianne was admitted to Seattle’s Children’s hospital days after eating a hamburger from a Redmond, WA Jack in the Box.  She developed HUS, which caused her to become puffy and jaundiced.  She began to bleed from every orifice in her body.  

Brianne would eventually slip into a coma, during which doctors removed her large intestine and hooked her heart, lungs, and kidneys up to machines to keep them functioning. Though expected to die, Brianne eventually emerged from the coma, and began the slow process of recovery, to the extent she would be able to recover. Many effects of her infection were permanent, including diabetes, asthma, brain damage and future kidney problems that will eventually lead to the need for a transplant.  

William Marler represented Brianne in a claim against Jack in the Box and Foodmaker, and obtained a $15.6 million settlement on her behalf, in addition to successfully resolving cases on behalf of more than 100 other victims of the outbreak.  He also contributed to the Brianne Kiner Foundation for Exceptional Parents and Children, which Brianne’s mother, Suzanne, founded to provide support for families whose children are facing critical illnesses.  

Bill also represented hundreds of other victims on the Jack in the Box outbreak in a class-action suit against the company. Settlements for individual and class-action claimants reached over $50 million, the largest payment related to foodborne illness at the time.  

In the year and a half following the outbreak, Jack in the Box lost approximately $160 million both in court and from lost sales.

To learn more about the E. coli lawsuits that followed the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak, visit the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark website.

Michael Beverly – The 1996 Odwalla E. coli Outbreak

In October of 1996, the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health linked 13 cases of E. coli O157:H7 to unpasteurized apple juice sold by Odwalla. The FDA subsequently announced a recall of all Odwalla juices containing raw apple juice. While investigators were unable to locate the exact site of contamination at Odwalla’s Dinuba, California plant, they did find numerous health code violations there, including poor employee hygiene and a lack of proper sanitization procedures. They also found that the plant had been accepting decayed fruit from growers.  

The E. coli outbreak eventually included 65 confirmed victims in the western United States and British Columbia. Over a dozen victims developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) from their infections. HUS is a life-threatening complication of E. coli infection that can lead to kidney and other organ failure, and sometimes central nervous system impairment.  

Michael Beverly, two years old at the time, was one such HUS patient. He developed diarrhea and cramps after drinking Odwalla apple juice at a Starbuck’s coffeehouse.  Upon admission to the hospital, his fever had reached 106 and he developed a rapid heart rate. He was released after two weeks in the hospital, where he underwent dialysis to treat kidney failure, one of the complications of his HUS.  Michael was left at risk of diabetes and kidney failure.  

In 1998, Odwalla was indicted and held criminally liable for the 1996 E. coli outbreak.  The company pled guilty to 16 federal criminal charges and agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine.  

As a result of the outbreak, Odwalla began pasteurizing its juices and the federal government began requiring warning labels on all unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juice containers.  

Bill Marler represented Michael and several other children who developed HUS and incurred severe kidney damage as a result of the outbreak.  The majority of claims were resolved in early 2000 for a reported $12 million.  The firm has since represented additional children injured during the outbreak in claims against the company.

To learn more about the E. coli lawsuits that followed 1996 Odwalla E. coli outbreak, visit the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark website.

Jordan Shook – The 1998 White Water Park E. coli Outbreak

In June of 1998, the Georgia Department of Health launched an investigation to determine the source of E. coli O157:H7 infections landing many Atlanta, GA-area children in the hospital. Interviews with the victims’ families determined that all had recently been to the same water park, White Water. Further investigation revealed low levels of chlorine in the park’s pools on all days victims had been exposed to the bacteria.  It was determined that bacteria had either grown in the water due to this insufficient chlorination, or had been present in the environment surrounding the pools.

Ultimately, 26 culture-confirmed E. coli cases were linked to the White Water outbreak. Forty percent of outbreak victims under five years old developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a serious complication from E. coli poisoning that can lead to kidney failure and central nervous system impairment.

One of these children was Jordan Shook, whose case of HUS was so severe that her nephrologist (kidney specialist) identified it as the worst he had ever seen. Not only did she develop kidney failure, but she sustained damage to all of her major organs, and suffered a stroke that caused extensive brain damage. Fifty-two days after hospitalization, she was released home to begin a very different life from the one she had before her visit to White Water.  

Jordan was treated for her HUS in the same hospital as two other children who also developed HUS from the outbreak, one of whom died.  

To learn more about the E. coli lawsuits that followed the White Water Park E. coli outbreak, visit the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark website. 

Faith Maxwell – The 1998 Finley Elementary School E. coli Outbreak

In October of 1998, 10 students at Finley Elementary School in Finley, WA were sickened infections from E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. Two of the students’ infections developed into hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal complication of E. coli poisoning.

The bacteria spread to one non-student as well. Faith Maxwell was 2 years old at the time, and contracted an E. coli infection from a Finley student. Faith developed a serious case of HUS. She was admitted to the hospital, where she became jaundiced and began to hallucinate. Eventually her kidneys shut down and she was put on dialysis for 17 days. She was in the hospital for a total of 30 days, after which time she returned home to begin to deal with the repercussions of an illness that had severely compromised her health.  

The source of the contamination, though never confirmed, was thought to be ground taco meat served at the school cafeteria. Though the meat tested negative for E. coli O157:H7, leftover golf-ball sized chunks of it were found to have pink, undercooked centers.  

In its final outbreak report, the Washington Department of Health concluded:

As no other common school activity was identified other than eating at the school cafeteria, it is reasonable to conclude that a meal served at the school was the likely source of illness.  Cattle are the known reservoir of E. coli O157:H7.  Thus, it is likely that consuming the ground beef served in the tacos was the vehicle.

Marler Clark filed a claim against the school on behalf of all 11 victims of the outbreak. The jury agreed with the conclusion that the ground taco meat was the likely source of contamination, and awarded victims of the outbreak $4.6 million in compensation, a large share of which went to Faith, the most seriously sickened of the victims. The decision was upheld on appeal.

Marler Clark also reached an out-of-court settlement with Northern States Beef, the company that had provided the raw meat to the school district. To read more about the Finley Elementary School E. coli outbreak and the resulting lawsuit, visit the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark website.

Henry Knam – The 1999 Sun Orchard Salmonella Outbreak

In June 1999, epidemiological investigations by the Washington and Oregon State Departments of Health in partnership with other state health departments, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified unpasteurized orange juice produced by Sun Orchard as the source of a multi-state Salmonella outbreak. Sun Orchard recalled all its unpasteurized juice products and the Food and Drug Administration (FDC) issued a nationwide warning to consumers.  

By July, there were 207 confirmed cases of Salmonella reported across 15 states and two Canadian Provinces, along with 91 additional cases under investigation.  

Henry Knam was one of those cases. Henry fell ill with Salmonella after consuming Sun Orchard unpasteurized orange juice at his Father’s Day brunch. Henry was taken to the hospital and passed away from his infection on July 23rd, 1999.  

Marler Clark represented Henry and 55 others in claims against Sun Orchard. All claims were resolved in 2002. You can read more about Salmonella lawsuits and litigation that stemmed from the Sun Orchard Salmonella outbreak in the Salmonella litigation section of Marler Clark website.  

Nicolaus Brayton – The 2000 Karl Ehmer Meat E. coli Outbreak

In July 2000, the New Jersey Health Department (NJOH) began investigating an illness of a 20-month-old boy who tested positive for E. coli O157. The NJOH found that the boy had eaten a hamburger a week before falling ill.

The NJOH partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to test the meat. They found that it was contaminated with E. coli and determined that it had been supplied by Karl Ehmer Meats. 

Nicolaus Brayton was the name of the sick boy. Nicolaus was taken to the hospital where he continued to deteriorate, requiring multiple platelet transfusions and suffering renal failure as a result of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). CAT scans revealed that he had suffered intra-cranial bleeding and cerebral swelling. Nicolaus passed away on August 1, 2000, two weeks after eating the contaminated hamburger. 

Marler Clark represented the family of Nicolaus Brayton in a wrongful death claim against Karl Ehmer. The claim was settled in 2003. You can read more about E. coli lawsuits and litigation that stemmed from the Karl Ehmer meats E. coli outbreak in the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark website. 

Harold Elli – The 2002 Susie Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak

In May of 2002, an outbreak of Salmonella Poona among dozens of people across the country was traced back to Susie Brand Cantaloupe, distributed by the I. Kunick Company of Texas. The company had imported cantaloupes from Mexico and distributed them to retail stores and restaurants around the nation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) subsequently detained all cantaloupes being imported from Mexico by Kunick.

Investigators eventually confirmed 58 cases as part of the outbreak, 10 of which resulted in hospitalization. Victims came from 10 different states and 4 Canadian provinces.

Harold Elli, an 85-year-old man, was one of those hospitalized as a result of his Salmonella infection, contracted from eating a Susie Brand Cantaloupe purchased at his local Safeway in The Dalles, Oregon. Mr. Elli developed life-threatening complications from his infection, including kidney damage, the beginning stages of pneumonia, and severe dehydration. He was hospitalized for 18 days, during which he was unable to eat, was in excruciating pain, and remained largely unresponsive. Mr. Elli’s illness left him unable to do many of the activities he had enjoyed before eating the contaminated cantaloupe, such as fixing cars, due to his loss of strength and energy.

Marler Clark represented Mr. Elli and successfully resolved his claim in 2003 for an undisclosed amount.

To read more about the Salmonella outbreak traced to cantaloupe and lawsuits brought on behalf of victims of the outbreak, visit the Salmonella litigation section of Marler Clark website.

Thomas Kruc – The 2002 ConAgra Ground Beef E. coli Outbreak

In June of 2002, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the recall of 354,000 pounds of ConAgra ground beef for contamination with E. coli O157:H7. The following month, the recall was expanded to include a staggering 18.6 million more pounds of ground beef, the second largest recall in U.S. history.

In the weeks leading up to and following the recall, 45 people in 23 states became ill with E. coli infections after eating the ground beef, which was manufactured at the ConAgra plant in Greeley, CO.

Marler Clark represented 23 of these victims, many of whom suffered from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of E. coli O157:H7 infection that can lead to kidney failure and serious neurological impairment.

One such outbreak victim was Thomas Kruc, a nine-year-old boy who, at the time of infection, was living with a foster family that would eventually adopt him as a son. On June 22, Thomas’ mother, Rebecca, made a family spaghetti dinner out of the contaminated ConAgra ground beef. Five days later, Thomas became so ill from vomiting that he was admitted to the hospital, where he developed HUS and had to be put on dialysis. He also experienced small seizures at night. Thomas’ health problems did not end with his release from the hospital. Not only did his experience with HUS put him at severe risk of future kidney failure and a shortened life span, but his previous mental health problems, a result of mistreatment as a child, worsened significantly.

Marler Clark was able to secure a settlement on Thomas’s behalf, in addition to resolving the other 22 cases from the outbreak. These cases included Thomas’ brother, Stephen, who experienced a lesser form of illness from the E. coli contamination.

To learn more about the E. coli lawsuits and litigation that stemmed from the 2002 ConAgra E. coli outbreak, visit the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark website. 

Richard Miller – The 2003 Chi-Chi’s Hepatitis A Outbreak

On October 13, 2003, Richard Miller and his wife Linda stopped by Chi-Chi’s restaurant in Monaca, Pennsylvania to grab lunch, and left with a Hepatitis A virus. Later in the month, both fell ill with body aches, loss of appetite and energy, and jaundice. But while Linda recovered within a few days, Richard’s case grew more severe. When he became incoherent and unable to stand, he was admitted to the hospital, sedated and eventually put on life support. Richard ultimately required a liver transplant, during which he suffered cardiac arrest. He pulled through the operation, only to begin a new life in which his former abilities were severely compromised, and his life span may have been shortened.    

In his own words, Miller said, “I don’t have my life any more. I don’t like it. I’ll never have it back. I got this monkey on my back. I feel like I’m a burden to Linda.” 

The food that changed Rich Miller’s life forever turned out to be green onions imported from Mexico that had been served raw in salsa at the restaurant, as well as in many other Chi-Chi’s dishes. 

During its investigation into the outbreak, the Pennsylvania Department of Health identified 650 cases of Hepatitis A originating with the imported onions. Four victims eventually died from fulminant hepatitis brought on by hepatitis A infection.     

Bill Marler called upon Chi-Chi’s to take responsibility for the outbreak and pay for victims’ lost wages.  Though Chi-Chi’s had filed for bankruptcy shortly before the outbreak, Marler was able to lift the protection that would have allowed the restaurant to avoid compensating victims.  

Marler Clark successfully resolved 78 claims on behalf of victims of the Chi-Chi’s Hepatitis A outbreak, and obtained a 6.25 million dollar settlement for Richard and Linda Miller.

The law firm also filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all 9,000 people who had received immune globulin shots due to risk of exposure to the virus after eating at the restaurant. By the time the deadline for completed forms had passed, 4,991 claimants had joined the suit. An $800,000 settlement was distributed among them.

To learn more about the lawsuits and litigation that stemmed from the Chi Chi's Hepatitis A outbreak, visit the Hepatitis A litigation section of the Marler Clark website.

Megan Richards – The 2006 Wendy’s E. coli O121:H19 Outbreak

On June 30, 2006, Megan Richards attended a CORE luncheon in Harrisville, Utah, where she ate a BLT catered by a nearby Wendy’s. Unfortunately, the L in her BLT turned out to be contaminated with a rare strain of E. coli bacteria: E. coli O121:H19, which would leave her with severe, long-term health problems.  

After her initial symptoms of food poisoning did not resolve themselves, Megan was admitted to the hospital 8 days after eating the contaminated food. Her kidneys began to fail due to a severe complication of E. coli poisoning called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). She experienced seizures, blood clots, and days on end of delirium. Sixteen days later, she was released, only to begin an intensive regime of dialysis, followed by a lifetime of negative effects of her infection. She incurred lasting central nervous system damage, and will likely require multiple kidney transplants in the future.  

An investigation by the Weber-Morgan Health Department concluded that four people had been sickened by iceberg lettuce served by the Wendy’s of North Ogden, Utah the last four days of June. Three of these four people developed HUS from their infections. More than 300 people were thought to have been exposed to the contaminated lettuce at the June 30 luncheon.  

Marler Clark represented Megan and the other victims of the outbreak, including another woman and a family with a child who also developed HUS. All of their claims were successfully resolved. To read more about the 2006 Wendy's E. coli outbreak and lawsuits visit the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark website. 

Ashley Armstrong – The 2006 Dole Spinach E. coli Outbreak

On August 26, 2007, the Armstrong family became victims of the 2006 dole baby spinach outbreak when the family had a spinach salad for dinner.  A little over a week later, Isabella (6) and Ashley (3) began to experience severe diarrhea. While Isabella recovered relatively quickly, Ashley became severely dehydrated and was admitted to the hospital. There, her infection developed into hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious and potentially fatal complication of E. coli poisoning. Her small body became swollen with the fluids her kidneys couldn’t eliminate, and she was kept on constant dialysis for almost six weeks.  

After she was discharged from the hospital, Ashley remained on dialysis until finally, after four months, it was discontinued.  By the end of January, her kidney function, while far from normal, had improved enough for her peritoneal dialysis catheter to finally be removed.

Ashley was one of 204 people affected by an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 resulting from contaminated bags of Dole baby spinach. The spinach was recalled on September 14, 2006. It was eventually traced back to Natural Selection Foods in Salinas Valley, CA.  

Ashley’s E. coli infection and HUS drastically altered her future. She will require multiple kidney transplants, which her body will become increasingly likely to resist, and she will require dialysis multiple times throughout her life.  She is also at a higher risk of weak bones, short stature, high blood pressure, heart attacks and cancer.  

Marler Clark represented Ashley and Isabella Armstrong and 92 other victims of the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak.  All claims were resolved successfully. To read more about the lawsuits and litigation resulting from the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak, visit the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark website.

 

Mora Lou Marshall – The 2006-2007 ConAgra Peanut Butter Salmonella Outbreak

In February 2007, the FDA announced a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella linked to ConAgra peanut butter produced at a plant in Sylvester, Georgia. Two types of peanut butter were linked to the outbreak: Peter Pan and Great Value. In their own investigation, ConAgra found that moisture leaking off the roof of the plant allowed for Salmonella to grow in the raw peanuts and peanut dust used in the peanut butter.

The CDC reported a total of 714 people with confirmed Salmonella related to the outbreak. 20% of those cases required hospitalization.

One of those cases was Mora Lou Marshall. Mora Lou loved Peter Pan peanut butter ever since her dentist recommended that she eat a tablespoon of peanut butter a day for vitamins and nutrients. Peter Pan was affordable, and she ate a tablespoon everyday between September 2006 and February 2007 until her family learned the source of her illness.

On Friday, December 29, 2006 Mora Lou started to experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Mora Lou’s symptoms required hospitalization and ultimately a life care facility. She went from being a southern woman full of life to living in a nursing home needing someone to lift her into her wheelchair and help her with her daily needs.

Marler Clark represented Mora Lou and one other individual in personal claims against ConAgra. The firm also filed a class action lawsuit against ConAgra on behalf of all those who were sick but did not require hospitalization. The firm resolved claims for over 1,000 people against ConAgra. To read more about the lawsuits and litigation that followed the ConAgra Salmonella outbreak, visit the Salmonella litigation section of the Marler Clark website. 

Stephanie Smith - The 2007 Cargill E. coli Outbreak

In October of 2007, Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation recalled 847,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties after they were found to be the source of a particularly virulent strain of E. coli O157:H7 that sickened 11 people.     

Stephanie Smith, a 22-year-old dance instructor from Cold Spring, Minnesota, suffered the worst injuries of the victims of the E. coli outbreak traced to Cargill meat.  She developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which shut down her kidneys and led to such frequent seizures that she was put into a medically induced coma for nine months. She emerged from the coma with brain damage, paralyzed from the waist down.  

A 2009 New York Times article by Michael Moss chronicling Stephanie Smith’s experience with E. coli won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. The article traces her hamburger back to the day it was made, looking at how it and other ground beef patties are produced. It also investigates the shortcomings of ground beef regulation that increase the risk of E. coli contamination.  The article spurred sympathy for Stephanie and raised awareness of the problems associated with beef production in the United States.  

Bill Marler represented Stephanie Smith. He worked with Cargill to get her into rehab and pay for her medical expenses before her case was resolved in the spring of 2010. Marler Clark also represented other victims of the 2007 Cargill E. coli outbreak in claims against the company.

To learn more about the lawsuits and litigation that followed the Cargill E. coli outbreak, visit the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark website. 

 

John Powers – The 2007 Whittier Farms Milk Listeria Monocytogenes Outbreak

On November 27, 2007, the Massachusetts Department of Health received notification that John Powers, an 87-year-old man, had been confirmed ill with a Listeria monocytogenes infection.  

A vibrant, healthy man, John had run the Boston Marathon twice in his younger days.  On the day before Thanksgiving, 2007, his wife Regina remembers him causing his family members to double over in laughter at his stories and jokes.  

Unfortunately, the groceries purchased for that year’s week-long Thanksgiving gathering included flavored milk produced by a local dairy, Whittier Farms.  John consumed coffee-flavored milk from Whittier Farms on multiple occasions.  The milk was later determined to be the source of a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak among several Massachusetts residents.  

By November 23, John was rushed to the hospital with symptoms of vomiting, fever, weakness and confusion. His condition deteriorated over the next three days as his heart enlarged, fluid filled the cavity around his lungs, and his white blood cell count rose. However, he began to improve and was discharged 17 days after being admitted.    

Although he had improved dramatically, John took a final turn for the worse a week after being released. He was readmitted to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with worsening congestive heart failure, kidney disease and a respiratory infection. He began to display signs of mental decline, including anxiety and yelling.  John died the afternoon of January 3, 2008.  

Four other people were also sickened by Listeria from Whittier Farms’ milk in November of 2007. Three of them were men, all over the age of 75, and all three died closely after the onset of their illnesses. The other two victims were pregnant women, both of whom gave birth prematurely, one to a stillborn infant.  

The investigation into the outbreak matched culture samples from each of the victims with Listeria found in bottles of milk produced by Whittier Farms. Health department officials then determined that Whittier Farms did not have an environmental monitoring program in place for Listeria monocytogenes.  The dairy closed in February of 2008, citing inability to afford the safety upgrades that were needed.  

John Powers’ family was represented by Marler Clark. More about the Listeria outbreak and subsequent lawsuit can be found in the Listeria litigation section of the Marler Clark website.

 

Mari Tardiff – The 2008 Alexandre EcoDairy Farms Raw Milk Campylobacter Outbreak

On June 6, 2008, Mari Tardiff began to experience acute diarrhea and vomiting, which eventually gave way to a searing pain in her legs. The night of June 12th, Mari went to bed after soaking her legs in hot water to get some temporary relief, and awoke to find she could not move her legs. She was admitted to the hospital, where the paralysis began to spread to the rest of her body. Despite being unable to move, she continued to feel intense pain instead of the numbness usually experienced by victims of paralysis.  

Doctors eventually diagnosed Mari with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a severe complication of Campylobacter infection in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. Mari’s case was linked to those of others who had developed Campylobacter infections from drinking raw milk produced by Alexandre EcoDairy Farms, a “cow-share” program in California. Sixteen other people, including one EcoDairy worker, were also infected with Campylobacter from the unpasteurized milk.  

Mari, a public health nurse who had always maintained a healthy lifestyle by eating organic foods and exercising often, had taken what turned out to be a devastating risk in eating a food she thought would be beneficial to her health.    

Mari spent almost six months in the hospital and in rehabilitation facilities, where she slowly learned to breathe again without a ventilator, and began to regain some of her speech and motion. She now lives at home in her family room, which has been outfitted with the equipment she needs, such as a hospital bed, stand-up frame, and Hoyer lift. It is unclear whether she will ever walk again.  

Marler Clark represented Mari and successfully resolved her case in November 2009. To read more about the Alexandre EcoDairy Farms Campylobacter outbreak and the litigation that followed, visit the Campylobacter litigation section of Marler Clark website.

Clifford Tousingnant – The 2008-2009 Peanut Butter Corporation of America Peanut Butter Salmonella Outbreak

In 2008 and 2009, 714 people in 46 states were confirmed ill with Salmonella after consuming peanut products produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). Health officials issued a recall for over 3600 products manufactured at PCA facilities in Blakely, GA and Plainview, TX.

One of those cases was Clifford Tousignant. Cliff was a military veteran who had recently moved into the Good Samaritan Woodland Skilled Nursing Facility in Brainerd, Minnesota. Cliff enjoyed his daily lunches at the facility and one of his favorite meals was peanut butter sandwiches.

On December 28th, 2008, Cliff started to experience severe diarrhea and demanded to be taken to the hospital. At the hospital, Cliff was treated with fluids and monitored. Cliff spent two weeks in the hospital becoming increasingly dehydrated from his symptoms. By the morning of January 12, Cliff was completely unresponsive. Doctors planned to give him a blood transfusion, but Cliff did not make it long enough for them continue treatment. Cliff passed away that morning from Salmonella Gastroenteritis.

On February 21, 2013, the US Department of Justice announced that former PCA officials had been indicted after a long criminal investigation into their involvement in allowing tainted products to enter the chain of commerce.

Marler Clark represented Cliff and 41 others in lawsuits against PCA. All claims were settled in September 2010. To learn more about the lawsuits and litigation that followed the PCA outbreak, visit the Salmonella litigation section of the Marler Clark website. 

John Strike and Abby Fenstermaker – The 2009 Valley Meats E. coli Outbreak

On April 11, 2009, John Strike, a veteran and grandfather, became ill with an E. coli O157:H7 infection three days after eating a cheeseburger at the VFW post in North Olmsted, Ohio. He was admitted to the hospital, where tests revealed a severe infection and lower intestinal bleeding, and eventually kidney failure. John was in the hospital for almost a month before he was well enough to be released to a rehabilitation facility.

While John’s battle with E. coli was coming to a close, albeit leaving severe health repercussions in its wake, his granddaughter Abby’s was just beginning. It was a battle the 7-year-old girl would eventually lose.

Abby Fenstermaker was admitted to the hospital on May 11, 2009 after ongoing diarrhea left her severely dehydrated and 2 pounds lighter than her usual weight. Her body hurt so badly that she sometimes cried out in pain. Urine analysis determined that Abby had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication of E. coli infection. Abby’s kidneys began to shut down. A chest x-ray revealed fluid building up around her lungs. She was eventually put on oxygen to facilitate breathing. The next day found Abby minimally responsive, and a brain scan revealed that she had likely suffered a massive stroke. She then slipped into a coma. Her condition declined further over the next two days until doctors finally proclaimed her brain-dead. On May 17, Abby’s parents requested that she be removed from life support, and, along with family and friends, said goodbye to their only daughter.

Marler Clark represented Abby’s parents and her grandfather in claims against Valley Meats, the company that produced the E. coli-contaminated hamburger that sickened John, whose infection then spread to his granddaughter.  Their claims were resolved in 2010.

Several state health departments reported illnesses associated with Valley Meats’ ground beef products in the middle of May, 2009. The products were distributed nationwide both as hamburger patties and un-formed ground beef.  The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a recall of 95,898 pounds of Valley Meats’ ground beef on May 21, 2009, four days after Abby Fenstermaker’s death.

To read more about the Valley Meats E. coli outbreak and the following litigation, visit the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark website.

Linda Rivera – The Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough E. coli Outbreak

In May 2009, when Linda Rivera dipped a spoon into the package of Nestle Toll House cookie dough she was using to make cookies for her twin sons’ prom party, she was unaware that she was also consuming a batch of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria that would eventually lead to a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  Four days later, Linda was admitted to the hospital, vomiting every five minutes. Doctors told her that E. coli was destroying her colon. They removed part of the organ, along with her gallbladder. Her kidneys and liver also shut down, and she was put into a medically-induced coma. When she awoke, she went into cardiac arrest, and required emergency kidney dialysis as well as 45 lbs of fluid.  

Linda spent the next year of her life in Las Vegas-area hospitals. She was given last rites in expectation of her death three times. In the 13th month of her illness, she was finally transported to a rehabilitation facility, where she remains today, to begin learning to walk and communicate again. Linda will probably need multiple kidney transplants throughout the rest of her life, which has been drastically changed and shortened since her infection. 

Linda Rivera was just one of 69 reported cases in 29 states. When it learned its dough was contaminated, Nestle USA voluntarily recalled many of its uncooked cookie dough products, and shut down half of its Danville, VA plant, where most of these products are made.  

Investigators later determined that contaminated flour may have been the source of the E. coli contamination, rather than raw eggs, which have traditionally been viewed as the dangerous ingredient in uncooked dough.  

Marler Clark resolved over a dozen cases on behalf of victims of the outbreak, and continues to represent Linda and other victims who developed HUS as a result of their infections. More about the Nestle cookie dough E. coli lawsuits and litigation can be found in the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark Website.

In September of 2009, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada wrote a letter to the Rivera family, promising that the Senate would take up the new food safety bill by late fall of that year.  While Reid’s promise may have been fulfilled a bit behind schedule, the Rivera family’s hopes were met when the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 passed in December of 2010 and was signed into law the next month.


 

Sarah Lewis – The 2010 Wright County Egg Salmonella Outbreak

On August 13, 2010, Wright County Egg of Iowa issued a massive recall of its shelled eggs after evidence pointed to the eggs as the source of an outbreak of Salmonella enteriditis that had sickened over 1,000 people.  Five days later, on August 18, the recall was expanded to include 380 million eggs dating back to April 2010.  On August 20, Hillandale Farms, another Iowa-based egg farm, recalled 170 million of its eggs for possible Salmonella enteriditis contamination, bringing the total of recalled eggs to over half a billion. Two days later, Mary Clare Jalonick of the AP revealed that Hillandale and Wright County shared suppliers of both chickens and feed, thus establishing the link between the two farms.

The FDA investigation into the outbreak determined that chicken feed was the most likely source of contamination, as feed at Wright County facilities tested positive for Salmonella. As the investigation continued, the FDA released an Inspection Report detailing gross health violations at Wright County Egg, including unsealed rodent burrows, uncaged birds climbing manure piles to get to laying areas, mice, flies and maggots. Days later, former Wright county employees admitted that the company repacked eggs returned from the grocery store and sold them again, and that live cats and mice were present at facilities.

Further investigation revealed that Wright Farms had been cited for health violations for the past thirty years. These frequent citations, however, had not prompted the company to change its practices enough to avoid what became the largest egg recall in history.

The Wright County and Hillandale farms outbreak ultimately sickened at 1,600 people, and probably affected many more who did not report their cases.

One of these victims was Sarah Lewis, a 30-year-old small business owner and mother of two. Sarah and her sister both became ill with Salmonella infections after eating custard tarts served at her sister’s college graduation banquet. The night after the college banquet, Sarah became violently ill. The next day, her mother took her to the hospital, where she was admitted first to the ER and then to the ICU. After experiencing severe heart palpitations, she was moved to a critical care heart unit for three days.

Sarah was released, but was readmitted three weeks later when her condition did not improve.  After being released from the hospital for a second time, Sarah learned from her doctor that she had developed a Clostridium difficile infection, which causes severe diarrhea and cramping, and that her Salmonella infection was still present as well. Sarah continued to experience symptoms of her infection months after her hospitalization.

Marler Clark filed lawsuits on behalf of Sarah and a number of other victims of the Wright County outbreak.

In September of 2010, Sarah shared her story before Congress during hearings on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act as an example of the need for increased FDA oversight of the egg industry. The Act was passed in December 2010.

To learn more about the lawsuits and litigation that followed the Wright County Salmonella outbreak, visit the Salmonella litigation section of the Marler Clark website.

Paul Schwarz – The 2011 Jensen Farms Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak

In September 2011, the Colorado State Health Department with the help of the FDA conducted an investigation into Jensen Farms after 147 people fell ill with Listeria across the country. The FDA found that Jensen farms had violated FDA guidelines on the safe production of cantaloupes. The greatest infractions being the decision not to chlorinate the water used to wash the cantaloupes and the use of improper equipment in the packinghouse.

Out of the 147 people who were affected by the five outbreak strains, 142 were hospitalized, and 33 deaths were reported. 

Paul Schwarz was one of those victims. Paul 92-year-old was a World War II veteran with two purple hearts living in Missouri. Paul fell ill in the fall of 2011 after eating cantaloupe contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes from Jensen Farms. After a month in the hospital and two more months in a rehabilitation center, Paul finally succumbed to his infection. He had a history of prior gastrointestinal problems and was immune compromised with non-autoimmune primary adrenal insufficiency. 

Marler Clark represented Paul and other individuals in claims against Jensen Farms. To learn more about the lawsuits and litigation the followed the Jensen Farms Listeria outbreak, visit the Listeria litigation section of the Marler Clark website. 

Joanna and Felix Valentine – The 2012 Marte Brande Frescolina Ricotta Salata Cheese Listeria Outbreak

In the fall of 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) collaborated with public health and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis). Joint investigation efforts indicated that ricotta salata cheese was the likely source.  

The cheese was imported from Italy and distributed by Forever Cheese, Inc. The FDA isolated the outbreak strain of Listeria from a sample of uncut Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese.  

In total, 22 people were infected with the outbreak strain from 13 states and the District of Columbia. 20 of the ill persons were hospitalized.  

Joanna Valentine was in her seventh month of pregnancy when she became ill with Listeria after consuming contaminated Fattorie Chiarappa manufactured cheese, imported by Forever Cheese. Joanna began to experience fever and chills and within a few days went into labor prematurely. On September 15, 2012 Joana gave birth to a son, Felix Soren Valentine. Unfortunately, Felix had contracted the Listeriosis infection from his mother and within two weeks passed away from organ failure related to the infection along with premature birth.  

Marler Clark represented the Valentines in claims against Forever Cheese. You can read more about Listeria lawsuits and litigation that stemmed from the Forever Cheese Listeria Outbreak in the Listeria litigation section of the Marler Clark Website.  

 

Arielle Allen and Katy Napierski – The 2014 Villa Romano Green Farms Botulism Outbreak

In July 2014, the California Department of Public Health investigated an outbreak of Botulism linked to VR Greens in San Clemente, California. The City of Cincinnati Health Department and the Ohio Department of Health traced two cases of Botulism to a jar of pesto sauce produced and canned by VR Greens.    

The two cases identified were Katy Napierski and Arielle Allen, two students in Cincinnati, Ohio. Katy had cooked a pasta meal for the two of them with a jar of pesto sauce that her father bought at a farm stand operated at the Bella Collina Towne and Golf Club in San Clemente California.    

Botulism is a rare disease whose symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, double vision, dropping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dryness of skin, mouth, and throat, lack of fever, muscle weakness, and paralysis. Two days after eating the meal, both Arielle and Katy began experiencing sore throat and difficulty swallowing severe enough to seek medical help.   

At the hospital, Katy was given breathing and feeding tubes to combat of her inability to swallow. Katy continued to fail breathing tests and reached the maximum number of days allowed to be intubated. She received a tracheostomy where a breathing tube was inserted directly into her throat. After finally being released from the hospital on August 23rd, Katy required speech and physical therapy to return to normal life. She continued to have trouble swallowing and weakness in her right hand and left leg for some time after her release.    

Arielle Allen had a less severe case of botulism, although she required a ventilator for three days, she passed a breathing test and was able to be taken off. Arielle was released from the hospital on August 2nd.  

Marler Clark represented Arielle and Katy in claims against VR Greens. You can read more about the lawsuits and litigation that followed the VR Greens Botulism outbreak in the Botulism litigation section of the Marler Clark Website. 

Shirlee Frey – The 2014 Caramel Apple Listeria Outbreak

On December 19th, 2014 federal investigators at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that an investigation of an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes was underway. Officials linked the outbreak to caramel apples from the Bidar Bros. apple-packing facility in Bakersfield, California, which packaged apples for the Happy Apple Company.

In total, 35 people were confirmed as part of the outbreak. 34 people were hospitalized and listeriosis contributed to at least three of the seven deaths reported. 

One of those cases was Shirlee Frey. Shirlee was a healthy 81-year-old woman who became ill after consuming several packages of Happy Apple’s caramel-covered apples purchased at Safeway in Felton, California around Halloween time. Shirlee first noticed something was wrong when she went to get something in the kitchen and fell unconscious face down on the kitchen floor. When Shirlee reached the hospital, they performed a CT scan revealing a subdural hematoma along with a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Shirlee was moved to a skilled nursing facility in Palo Alto to be monitored. 

At the facility, Shirlee began to complain of abdominal pain and discomfort along with muscle weakness. The staff recommended that she be transferred to the Dominican Hospital ER. At the ER they recommended Shirlee by moved to Stanford Hospital. Upon arrival she was unresponsive. Shirley remained unconscious for the last 5 days of her life, when her family made the decision to take her off life support. The official cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest resulting from bacterial meningitis.

Marler Clark represented Shirlee and her family in claims against the Happy Apple Company. You can learn more about the lawsuits and litigation that followed the Caramel Apple Listeria outbreak in the Listeria litigation section of the Marler Clark website. 

Chloe Rodgerson – The 2015 Costco Chicken Salad E. coli Outbreak

In 2015, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and public health officials in several states began investigating an E. coli outbreak that had infected 19 people across 7 states.  

Epidemiologic evidence collected during the investigation linked the outbreak to a rotisserie chicken salad made and sold in Costco stores. Out of the 19-people connected to the outbreak, 5 were hospitalized and 2 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). No deaths were reported.  

Chloe Rodgerson was one of those who developed HUS. Chloe was an avid dancer and performer who had dreams of preforming on Broadway. A few days before she was supposed to leave to start her new job as a princess at Disney Land, her father brought home a chicken salad for her from Costco.  

On October 31st, 2015, Chloe called her mom at work concerned that she had vomited blood and passed blood in her stool. Her mom immediately took her to the emergency room. Little did they know the journey they were embarking on. To date she has experienced liver and kidney failure, kidney transplant, a colonoscopy, dialysis, and continues experience seizures and diabetes resulting from her infection.  

Chloe’s life has been changed forever, she will likely never preform again and needs constant monitoring for her seizures and diabetes.  

Marler Clark represents Chloe and two others in claims against Costco. You can read more about E. coli lawsuits and litigation that stemmed from the Costco E. coli outbreak in the E. coli litigation section of the Marler Clark Website. 

Shirlee Yuu – The 2016 Genki Sushi Hepatitis A Outbreak

On August 15, 2016, the Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) identified raw scallops served at Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai as a likely source of an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak. The product of concern was identified to be Sea Port Bay Scallops that originated in the Philippines and were distributed by Koha Oriental Foods.  

As of November 2016, the HDOH had identified 292 confirmed cases of hepatitis A, 74 of which required hospitalization.  One of these cases was Shirlee Yuu. Shirlee began feeling ill in June 2016 when she started feeling weak to the extent that it made walking difficult along with passing dark colored urine. Shirlee’s son took her to the Pali Momi emergency room where they found evidence of acute liver failure. Shirlee was transferred to Queen’s Medical Center where she was diagnosed with an acute Hepatitis A infection. The doctors gave her medication and monitored Shirlee for a week before discharging her.  

Shirlee’s condition worsened and she returned to the hospital a month later where she met with a doctor to discuss a liver transplant. Unfortunately, Shirlee did not live long enough to receive one. Shirlee was put on dialysis for her kidney disfunction and required intubation for respiratory failure. On October 19th Shirlee passed away after refusing to continue using a machine to help her breath.  

Marler Clark represented Shirly and 87 other individuals in claims against Genki Sushi. You can lean more about the lawsuits and litigation the followed the Genki Sushi Hepatitis A outbreak in the Hepatitis litigation section of the Marler Clark website. 

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