E. coli lawsuits re-filed against Excel in Sizzler case


MILWAUKEE, WI — Four lawsuits were filed yesterday in Milwaukee County Superior Court against Excel, the company that is alleged to have supplied E. coli O157:H7-contaminated meat to two Milwaukee Sizzler restaurants connected to an outbreak that sickened dozens and killed one small child in July of 2000. The defendants also included Sysco of Eastern Wisconsin, the company that distributed the meat from Excel. William Marler of Marler Clark, and Michael Hanrahan of Fox O’Neill and Shannon, filed the lawsuits on behalf of ten adults and four children, all of whom suffered serious E. coli O157:H7 infections.

The filing of these lawsuits was made possible when the State of Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled in May 2003 that Excel could be held liable for allegedly supplying adulterated meat to the Sizzler restaurants. Excel had argued that federal law preempted the plaintiffs’ injury claims, but the Court of Appeals ruled that “federal preemption does not close the doors of Wisconsin courts to claims against Excel.” The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Excel.

“We would have preferred not to file these lawsuits,” said Marler. “But it was the best decision under the circumstances to protect the rights of our clients. Now that the litigation is becoming active again, and with no sign that Excel is interested in settlement, we had no choice but to include these lawsuits with the others already filed.”

According to one complaint filed behalf of Gabrielle and John Cetta, Jr., of Holbrook, New York, one of the minors first became ill after eating at a Milwaukee Sizzler restaurant. While John Jr. suffered a comparatively mild E. coli infection, Gabrielle suffered a severe illness, and required hospitalization. She developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (“HUS”), and was hospitalized for 14 days, undergoing kidney dialysis and blood transfusions.

“Excel continues to have E. coli-related problems, as evidenced by their recall of E. coli-contaminated ground beef yesterday,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark. “It is time for the company to take responsibility for its actions and compensate victims of its negligence.”

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BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of food-borne illnesses. William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box in 1993. In 1998, Marler Clark resolved the Odwalla Juice E. coli outbreak for five families whose children developed HUS and were severely injured after consuming contaminated apple juice for $12 million. Since 1993 Marler Clark has successfully resolved well over a thousand food-borne illness matters. Total recoveries exceed $75 million.

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