E. coli lawsuit filed against Florida Strawberry Festival, Petting Zoo


TAMPA – Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm nationally recognized for the successful representation of victims of E. coli outbreaks, filed a lawsuit Monday against the Florida Strawberry Festival and AgVenture Farm Shows. The lawsuit was filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court on behalf of Diana Walker, a Pinellas County resident who became ill with an E. coli O157:H7 infection after visiting the 2005 Florida Strawberry Festival.

The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Walker’s injuries stem from visiting the 2005 Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City. Ms. Walker attended the AgVenture Farms petting zoo at the festival on March 12, and became ill with symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection six days later. She was hospitalized at St. Petersburg General Hospital for 16 days, and underwent blood transfusions and plasmapheresis treatments to combat HUS, a life-threatening complication of E. coli infection.

“We named the Strawberry Festival as a plaintiff in this lawsuit because it is likely that AgVenture Farms will not have enough insurance to fully compensate victims of this outbreak,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark. “Diana has not yet been able to return to work, and is being monitored for future complications of infection. Her time off work, and constant need for medical monitoring, has created a financial hardship she would not otherwise have faced.”

Marler Clark previously filed a lawsuit on behalf of Yvonne Miller, an Orlando resident who contracted an E. coli infection after attending the Central Florida State Fair in Orlando. “We chose to file this lawsuit against both AgVenture and the Strawberry Festival because there is a chance that the Strawberry Festival may have adequate insurance to compensate Diane for what she went through even if AgVenture does not,” Marler continued.

Marler recently sent letters to state legislators in Florida, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Oregon, all states that were sites of previous E. coli outbreaks, encouraging them to put into law regulations regarding human-animal contact in fair and petting zoo settings.

“Until state legislators take this seriously and begin making laws that create some incentive for petting zoos to clean up their act, there will be more outbreaks and more people with hospital bills and lost wages with limited recourse. Fair and petting zoo operators who put visitors’ health at risk should be held responsible,” Marler concluded.

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BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has represented thousands of victims of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks across the country since 1993, when William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box. The firm has litigated against such companies as Wendy’s, Sizzler, Excel, ConAgra and Jack in the Box on behalf of people seriously injured by E. coli infections. Total recoveries are nearly $200 million.

See www.fair-safety.com, www.about-ecoli.com, www.ecoliblog.com, and www.ecolilitigation.com.

More about the AgVenture Farms E. coli outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.