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E. coli Lawsuit Filed Against Supervalu/Cub Food

SEATTLE, WA -- A lawsuit was filed in Hennepin County District Court today on behalf of three-year-old Sonja Pearson and her parents, Jim and Susanna, against Supervalu/Cub Foods and American Foods Group, Inc. (AFG). In November 2000, Sonja ate meatballs prepared with ground beef purchased from the West St. Paul Cub Foods. Days later, Sonja became violently ill and was hospitalized at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul with an acute E. coli O157:H7 infection. The toddler remained at Children’s Hospital for over a month, succumbing to kidney failure, and requiring dialysis to keep her alive.

The Minnesota Department of Health eventually confirmed that 42 Minnesota residents, including Sonja, were infected with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. The Department of Health determined that the source of the outbreak was contaminated ground beef manufactured and sold by Supervalu/Cub Foods stores. Also named in the lawsuit is American Foods Group, the company that manufactured the raw materials from which Supervalu made the ground beef.

While hospitalized, Sonja required 27 consecutive days of dialysis. She also developed peritonitis, an inflammation of the stomach lining and internal organs. Throughout her hospital stay, Sonja suffered from persistent abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. By the time she was released, Jim and Susanna Pearson incurred over $220,000 in medical expenses. Seven months after her release from the hospital, medical experts believe Sonja has increased risk to develop progressive renal disease - including kidney failure, colonic stricture, gall bladder disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We asked Supervalu/Cub and AFG to pay this child’s medical expenses, but they refused. We then asked if they would sit down and resolve this matter so that litigation could be avoided, but, again, they refused. We were left with no alternative but to file this suit,” said William Marler, the Pearsons’ attorney, and managing partner of the law firm Marler Clark. “It’s quite clear that these two companies care more about the lawsuit they have between each other, than what happened to Sonja Pearson. Their positions concern me even more, given that both were implicated two other E. coli incidents in 1998 and 1999. It’s time that they are held accountable for causing the Pearsons, and the other families affected by this outbreak, such grief,” added Marler. The Pearsons are also represented by Minneapolis firm of Jardine, Logan, and O’Brein.


Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of foodborne illness. The firm’s attorneys are currently lead counsel in actions related to E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and hepatitis outbreaks in several states. In February 2001, Marler Clark secured a $4.75 million jury verdict against the Finley School District in Eastern Washington for several children were infected with E. coli O157:H7 after eating contaminated beef served to them in a school lunch. These were the first E. coli claims in the county to go to the jury.

Earlier noteworthy successes include managing partner’s, William Marler’s, 1993 $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box for Brianne Kiner, after she was infected with E coli O157:H7 during the highly publicized outbreak. In addition, Marler Clark resolved the claims of five families for $12 million in 1998, after their children were infected with E. coli 0157:H7 by drinking Odwalla apple juice contaminated with the bacteria.

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More about the AFG / Supervalu E. coli outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.

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