Family settles with grocer, supplier of meat that sickened daughter

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The family of a 3-year-old girl who was hospitalized for more than a month after eating ground beef reached a settlement with American foods Group and Supervalu, the family's attorney announced Thursday.

A lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court last August claimed Sonja Pearson became ill with an acute E. coli infection in November 2000, a few days after eating ground beef purchased from Cub Foods in West St. Paul.

The toddler was taken to Children's Hospital in St. Paul, where she went into kidney failure and required dialysis for 27 days. She developed peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdominal lining and internal organs, the lawsuit said.

By the time Sonja was released, her parents, Jim and Susanna Pearson of Inver Grove Heights, incurred more than $220,000 in medical expenses, according to the lawsuit.

The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture determined American Foods Group had supplied the beef Supervalu used to make the ground beef.

Terms of the settlement, which was reached last Friday, were confidential, said William Marler, the family's attorney.

More than 40 people became ill during the E. coli outbreak in November and December 2000. The Minnesota Department of Health traced the outbreak to ground beef sold at Cub Foods.

James Mulhern, a spokesman for Green Bay, Wis.-based American Foods Group, said the company is pleased to resolve the case. "We worked carefully and in good conscience to reach an appropriate settlement with the Pearsons," he said.

Polly Deane, spokeswoman for Supervalu, said: "We believe the settlement is mutually agreeable and beneficial, and we are pleased with the settlement and the resolution of this matter."