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Family Settles Tainted-Spinach Lawsuit

By DINESH RAMDE AP Business Writer

The Associated Press

November 27, 2007

MILWAUKEE — More than a year after their two children were severely sickened by E. coli, a southeastern Wisconsin couple has settled their federal lawsuit with four spinach companies.

Details of the settlement were secret, but in court documents filed in 2006, lawyers for the family asked for more than $75,000 plus court costs.

A family lawyer said Tuesday that parents Neil and Anne Grintjes of the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield are just glad the matter is resolved.

"They're happy to put it behind them, and the companies are happy to put it behind them as well," said William Marler, an attorney at Marler Clark in Seattle. "The Grintjes are pleased at the result."

The agreement was reached in October but not filed in federal court until last week. It still needs approval from a federal judge, which Marler said he is confident will happen.

The national outbreak in September 2006 was traced to tainted spinach produced by Natural Selection Foods LLC. Three people died, including 77-year-old Marion Graff of Manitowoc.

Of the 204 people sickened by the tainted greens, Marler said about 100 have brought a lawsuit. His firm is handling 83 cases and has resolved 51 within the past few months.

Marler declined to say whether the settlements covered just medical bills or included money for pain and suffering.

"All I can say is, we were all satisfied with the result," he said.

The Grintjes' lawsuit named the San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based company along with three others from California: Dole Food Co. of Westlake Village, Natural Selection Foods Manufacturing of San Juan Bautista; and Mission Organics of Salinas.

A Dole spokesman said the company doesn't discuss litigation. Messages left for the other three companies, as well as for the Grintjes family, weren't immediately returned Tuesday.

According to the Grintjes' complaint, the family's 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter ate from several packages of Dole baby spinach in August 2006.

The boy became sick a few days later, suffering bouts of diarrhea and eventually developing a potentially fatal form of kidney failure. He was hospitalized for two weeks and had multiple blood transfusions.

His sister fell ill around the same time. She tested positive for the same E. coli strain, but never developed the kidney disorder.

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