On October 6, 2007, Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation announced that it was recalling approximately 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties for possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination. The recall was initiated after three people in Minnesota tested positive for E. coli and a joint investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Agriculture identified the Cargill hamburger patties as the source of the illnesses.
The Cargill products were sold at retail establishments and to restaurants and other institutions. Sam’s Club announced that it was pulling the potentially E. coli-contaminated ground beef patties produced by Cargill from its store shelves nationwide on October 5th.
Marler Clark filed four E. coli lawsuits against Cargill after the recall was announced. The firm filed its first E. coli lawsuit against Cargill associated with this outbreak on October 15, 2007, on behalf of a Minnesota family whose two children became ill with E. coli infections after eating Cargill ground beef patties. One of the children developed hemolytic uremic syndrome and was hospitalized with kidney failure. Marler Clark filed a second lawsuit in as many weeks on October 25, 2007 on behalf of another Minnesota child who became ill with E. coli and was hospitalized but did not develop HUS. On November 7, Marler Clark filed its third E. coli lawsuit against Cargill. This lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Tennessee siblings who were hospitalized with E. coli infections after eating Cargill hamburgers. The boy was hospitalized for nearly a month with HUS and part of his colon was removed as a result of his E. coli infection. His sister was hospitalized for a week but did not develop HUS.
The most grievously sickened victim was Stephanie Smith, who developed HUS and spent months in a medically-induced coma. The former dance instructor was paralyzed from the waist down, and both her kidney function and cognitive abilities were impaired. Michael Moss of the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for the article he wrote about Stephanie Smith and the background of the beef that went into the burger that made her sick. Her lawsuit was settled in May, 2010 for an undisclosed sum.