SEATTLE, WA – The first lawsuit stemming from an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak traced to ground beef produced by United Food Group, Inc. (UFG) was filed yesterday in Riverside County Superior Court, in California. The lawsuit was filed against UFG by Seattle-based Marler Clark and San Diego-based Gordon and Holmes on behalf of Lawrence Fournier and Cynthia Centura of Hemet, California, whose four-year-old daughter, Lauren, became ill with an E. coli infection and was hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe, life-threatening complication of E. coli infection that can lead to kidney failure, after eating UFG ground beef.
The lawsuit alleges that Cynthia Centura purchased Stater Brothers ground beef, manufactured by UFG, and served it to her family in spaghetti sauce on April 22, 2007. Her daughter, Lauren Fournier, became ill with symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection, including abdominal cramps and diarrhea, two days later. Lauren was admitted to a San Diego hospital on April 27th. She developed HUS, and suffered from acute kidney failure, requiring eight dialysis treatments and five transfusions. She was discharged from the hospital on May 18th. While hospitalized, Lauren submitted a stool sample, which later returned positive for the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 that was isolated from leftover ground beef in her family’s freezer and that isolated from 13 other ill people in six states.
“The meat industry has made significant progress in preventing E. coli outbreaks traced to meat products in the last five years,” said William Marler, who has dedicated his law practice to representing victims of foodborne illness outbreaks since representing over 100 victims of the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak. “One has to ask, ‘Who dropped the ball at UFG?’”
On June 3, 2007, UFG recalled 75,000 pounds of ground beef due to potential E. coli O157:H7 contamination. The ground beef subject to recall had been produced by UFG on April 20, and was distributed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Utah. The recall was the result of a joint investigation into an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak by Colorado and California health officials in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After additional testing and more reported illnesses, UFG expanded the recall on June 6 to include 370,000 pounds of ground beef produced between April 13 and April 20. Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, and Wyoming were added to the list of states that had received recalled meat. By June 9, UFG had again expanded its recall to include a total of approximately 5.7 million pounds of both fresh and frozen ground beef products produced between April 6 and April 20. The California Department of Health Services, the Colorado Department of Health, and the
CDC reported 14 illnesses associated with the outbreak – 6 in Arizona, 3 in California, 2 in Colorado, 1 in Idaho, 1 in Utah, and 1 in Wyoming.
BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has represented thousands of victims of foodborne illnesses, such as E. coli, Salmonella, and hepatitis A. The firm has litigated high profile E. coli cases against Odwalla, Chili’s, Wendy’s, ConAgra, and other food companies.
More about the United Food Group E. coli outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.