Family of Canadian Woman Sues California Lettuce Supplier in U.S. District Court


The family of a Canadian woman who allegedly died after eating E. coli-contaminated lettuce sold by California-based Tanimura & Antle filed a lawsuit against the company late last week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit was filed by Seattle-based Marler Clark, the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of foodborne illness, and San Diego-based Gordon & Holmes.

According to the lawsuit, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) isolated E. coli O157:H7 from a sample of Tanimura & Antle Romaine lettuce and issued a “Health Hazard Alert” on August 17, 2012, warning the public not to consume “Wrapped Single Head Romaine”. The agency expanded its notice to include additional lettuce on August 20. The complaint alleges that Gail Bernacki, a Calgary, Alberta resident, consumed the Tanimura & Antle Romaine lettuce and fell ill with an E. coli O157:H7 infection in late August, 2012. The complaint states that Ms. Bernacki was hospitalized for several weeks and did not return to her baseline functional status despite extensive rehabilitation and hospitalization. She passed away on January 16, 2013. E. coli O157:H7 bacteria isolated from Ms. Bernacki’s stool during her acute E. coli illness was genetically indistinguishable from bacteria the CFIA had isolated from the Tanimura & Antle Romaine lettuce.

Although growers of leafy greens have made huge strides in food safety since the E. coli outbreak of 2006, this case shows that there is more to do.--Marler Clark managing partner, Bill Marler.

More about the Tanimura & Antle E. coli case can be found in Case News.