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Cold Spring woman, Cargill settle E. coli case

by David Unze, St. Cloud Times

A Cold Spring woman who nearly died after getting E. coli from a tainted hamburger has settled her lawsuit with food giant Cargill. The confidential settlement means no information is available about how much Cargill will pay Stephanie Smith. In a court filing in March, Smith asked for more than $56 million.

The settlement will provide care for Smith for the rest of her life, Cargill and Smith said in a joint statement.

“This settlement will allow Stephanie to continue her fight to return to her greatest passion, dance,” said Bill Marler, Smith’s attorney. “The Smith family appreciates this resolution and looks forward to Stephanie’s continued rehabilitation.”

Stephanie Smith, 23, was left paralyzed from the waist down and with extensive, long-term injuries that one day will require a kidney transplant.

Cargill admitted it was responsible for Smith’s injuries and has paid for a significant portion of Smith’s rehabilitation care and has bought her a handicapped-accessible van.

“Cargill deeply regrets Ms. Smith’s injuries and is also hopeful for her continued rehabilitation,” according to the joint statement posted on Marler’s Web site.

Cargill has invested more than $1 billion in ongoing meat science research and new food safety technologies and interventions to eliminate E. coli and other naturally occurring pathogens that can lead to food-borne illnesses, the statement read.

Smith is a former dance instructor who became ill in September 2007 after eating a hamburger produced by Cargill. She was diagnosed with an E. coli infection that developed into hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication that causes kidney failure.

She suffered several seizures and was in a medically induced coma for three months. She has spent more than two years in rehabilitation and remains in a wheelchair.

The parties’ settlement requires federal court approval.

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