E. coli Update


The last of dozens of personal-injury lawsuits filed after a 1993 outbreak of food poisoning traced to tainted Jack in the Box hamburgers has been settled out of court.

Attorneys for a 13-year-old Seattle boy announced that a $3 million settlement has been reached with the insurance companies for San Diego-based Foodmaker Inc., the parent of Jack in the Box, and The Vons Companies Inc., a meat supplier.

The boy, whose name was not released, was hospitalized for 10 days and underwent dialysis for six days after getting sick from a Jack in the Box hamburger.

The family's lawyer, Bill Marler of Seattle, said the boy is now "doing great" but will require medical monitoring.

More than 600 people in Washington, most of them children, got sick in early 1993 from eating Jack in the Box hamburgers contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. Three children died.

Marler said Foodmaker set aside a $100 million insurance pool to cover lawsuit settlements. All but one of the dozens of suits filed were settled out of court, he said.

Many of the cases were wrapped into a class action, handled by another law firm, that was settled for $12 million.

The largest single-case settlement was $15.6 million to the family of Brianne Kiner of Redmond. Kiner, then 9, lapsed into a coma for 42 days after eating a tainted burger. She continues to undergo therapy and rehabilitation. Marler praised Foodmaker and Vons for settling the cases out of court.

"Throughout the entire case, the professionalism and compassion shown by the corporations, their insurers and their attorneys should be an example of how to resolve a crisis involving consumers, especially children," Marler said.