Fifth Lawsuit Filed Against Odwalla

The family of the 4-year-old Seattle girl said to have suffered kidney failure allegedly caused by bacteria in Odwalla apple juice has filed suit against the Half Moon Bay-based company.

The filing is the fifth pending case against Odwalla, but the lawyer who represents the girl said last week he plans to file complaints on behalf of perhaps four more children and ask to have them consolidated in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

The lawyer, William Marler of Seattle, said he believes there is "a high likelihood" of winning punitive damages in the cases. "We want to consolidate so all the kids are treated fairly," said Marler. "And frankly, that is so that Odwalla is treated fairly, so they do not wind up suffering multiple punitive damages."

Company spokesman Chris Gallager said, "What is most important here is the good news that all these children appear to be healthy, and Odwalla has kept its promise to pay their medical bills.

"This particular lawyer (Marler) represents a number of families, and we expect him to file a number of complaints. However, we have asked him to sit down with us and work out a fair settlement in these cases."

The new product liability complaint alleges that Brooke Hiatt became ill after drinking unpasteurized Odwalla juice. She was hospitalized at Children's Hospital in Seattle Oct. 19-26, 1996, and was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome. She did not require kidney dialysis but did receive blood transfusions.

Hiatt's medical bills totaled $ 12,500 and were paid by Odwalla's insurance company. The company also paid the medical bills of other Marler clients: $ 125,000 for Amanda Berman of Chicago; $ 50,000 for Brian Dimock of Seattle, and $ 55,000 for Michael Beverly of Seattle.

Marler has filed complaints on behalf of Beverly and Hiatt, but he said he plans to file for Berman and Dimock and perhaps for two other children.

Trial has been set in the lead case, the Beverly case, for March 26, 1998, in federal court in Seattle.