Food Poisoning Legal Team Joins Fight for Laraway School Victims


JOLIET, IL — Nearly one-third of the victims from the November 25, 2002, anhydrous ammonia poisoning at Laraway Elementary School in Joliet, Illinois are now represented by Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm nationally known for its representation of victims of food-borne illness. The Seattle attorneys signed on as co-counsel with the Chicago-based law firm of James P. Crawley & Associates in a lawsuit filed today against Gateway Cold Storage, Inc. of St. Louis, Missouri.

James P. Crawley & Associates contacted Marler Clark because of the firm’s well documented history of representing victims of food poisoning, and particularly children, across the United States. The lawsuit was filed in Will County Circuit Court, and alleges that Gateway Cold Storage knowingly shipped foods contaminated with anhydrous ammonia to Laraway Elementary School for use in its school lunch program. The suit states that the company owed a duty to the children and teachers to distribute a product that was fit for human consumption, and asks that the company be held strictly liable for the poisoning of 17 students and two teachers. They also may seek punitive damages.

"Marler Clark is the national leader in representing victims of food poisoning," said James Crawley, attorney for nineteen victims of ammonia poisoning. “When you have a law firm that has fought these same bullies on the playground before, and won, you want them on your side. These kids will not be bullied anymore."

"The negligence of Gateway Cold Storage unnecessarily put our clients in a life-threatening situation. This company knew that food bound for children was tainted,” said attorney William Marler. “It is regrettable that the National School Lunch Program, which was designed to provide children a nutritious, wholesome lunch, endangered these kids’ health and sent them to the emergency room.”

The lawsuit names Tyson Foods, Inc., Lanter Refrigeration Co., Laraway Unified School District, Laraway Elementary School, the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education, Will County Department of Health, the Missouri and St. Louis Departments of Health, the US Department of Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration as “respondents in discovery” – a legal designation suggesting those parties know the identity of other possible defendants. A preliminary investigation into this incident suggests that multiple commercial and governmental entities may have contributed to the cause of this disturbing, preventable event,” Crawley continued. “The government has failed at all levels to protect the children at Laraway School.”

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BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of all food-borne illnesses. Marler Clark recently secured a verdict of $4.75 million against a School District in Eastern Washington. William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box in 1993. In 1998, Marler Clark resolved the Odwalla Juice E. coli outbreak for five families whose children developed HUS and were severely injured after consuming contaminated apple juice for $12 million. Total recoveries exceed $75 million. Marler Clark is currently lead counsel in actions resulting from E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria, Norwalk Virus or Hepatitis A outbreaks in several states. Marler Clark has also litigated on behalf of children against KFC, Bauer Meats, IBP, Excel, McDonalds, Hardees, Wendy’s, Subway, Sizzler and Carl's Jr.

See also the Marler Clark-sponsored Web site about foodborne illness.

More about the Laraway Elementary School ammonia poisoning can be found in the Case News area of this site.