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California Woman Who Ate Frozen Berries Sues Townsend Farms Over Hepatitis A

SAN DIEGO—A lawsuit was filed today in San Diego County Superior Court (Case No. 37-2013-00051417-CU-PL-CTL) against Townsend Farms, the company whose Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend has been linked to a hepatitis A outbreak among 49 residents of 7 states. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a San Diego County resident who alleges she fell ill with a hepatitis A infection after eating Townsend Farms frozen berries. The plaintiff is represented by Seattle-based Marler Clark, the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of foodborne illness, and San Diego lawyers Fred Gordon of Gordon & Holmes and Rick Waite of Keeney, Waite & Stevens.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff fell ill with symptoms of hepatitis A infection, including a headache and pain in her right side, on May 19, 2013. Her attorneys allege that the plaintiff fought a headache and fatigue for 3 days before seeking medical treatment on May 21 and that she later learned from the San Diego County Health Department that she was part of the hepatitis A outbreak linked to Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend frozen berry mix with pomegranate seeds. During the acute phase of her illness, the plaintiff was allegedly unable to care for her children, had to cancel vacation plans and was unable to enjoy a visit from her father-in-law who had traveled from Argentina to spend time with her family.

In a June 4 announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that The Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend was sold at Costco stores between late February, 2013 and May, 2013. Costco Wholesale is notifying its members who purchased the frozen berry products of their potential exposure to hepatitis A. The Oregonian reported today that Townsend Farms was recalling its product sold at both Costco Wholesale stores and at Harris Teeter stores.

The CDC stated on its website that The Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend frozen berry mix associated with illness contained pomegranate seeds and other produce from the US, Argentina, Chile, and Turkey.

“Consumers of frozen berries should not have to worry about their safety,” said William Marler, attorney for the plaintiff. “My clients and others who ate the Townsend Farms product deserve more.”

BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has represented hundreds of people who contracted hepatitis A after eating contaminated food. The law firm has also represented thousands who received hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin injections to prevent infection and has recovered over $600 million for victims of not only hepatitis A, but E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria.

Gordon + Holmes' representative plaintiff cases have involved national foodborne illness outbreaks where hundreds of people were sickened from eating contaminated food, including Chi-Chi's v. Castellini, one of the largest hepatitis A outbreaks in a restaurant industry history; Sheetz v. Coronet, largest salmonella outbreak in US restaurant industry history; and Foodmaker v. Vons, at the time the largest E. coli outbreak in US history.

Mr. Waite, of the San Diego law firm Keeney Waite & Stevens, has represented hundreds of seriously injured foodborne illness victims since the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak in 1993.

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