SEATTLE—A lawsuit will be filed today in King County Superior Court against Harmony Farms, LLC, the Auburn, Washington, sprout grower that was linked by the Oregon Department of Human Services to at least nine cases of Salmonella Saintpaul in Washington and Oregon in early March, 2003. The sprouts were distributed to retailers in both states, until recently recalled. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 20-year-old Sam House, an Independence, Oregon resident who became ill with Salmonella as a result of consuming contaminated alfalfa sprouts. He is represented by Andrew Weisbecker, a partner in Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm nationally known for its representation of victims of foodborne illness.
The lawsuit is based on the Washington Product Liability Act, which states that Harmony Farms owed a duty to consumers to manufacture a product that was not adulterated, and was fit for human consumption. Sam became seriously ill after consuming a sandwich that contained contaminated Harmony Farms alfalfa sprouts, suffering from high fever, severe nausea, and diarrhea. He required emergency room treatment, missed a number of days of work, and incurred substantial medical expenses while doctors treated his infection.
“My client suffered because the sprouts distributed by Harmony Farms were unfit for human consumption,” said Weisbecker. “Safeguards should have been in place to protect customers’ health. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks, including Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7, caused by different types of sprout products. These producers need to reduce the risk of contamination, and also need to warn consumers of the potential for infection.”
A number of salmonella outbreaks have been tied to sprouts in recent years:
· February to May 2002: about 32 cases of salmonellosis associated with alfalfa sprouts in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico
· February to March 2001: about 84 confirmed cases of salmonellosis associated with bean sprouts in Edmonton, Canada
· March 2000: about 45 cases of salmonellosis associated with clover sprouts in California
· May 1999: about 30 cases of salmonellosis associated with the consumption of clover sprouts in California
· March to May 1999: about 70 cases of salmonellosis associated with clover sprouts in Colorado
· May 1998: 19 cases of salmonellosis associated with alfalfa sprouts in California
· Late 1997 to July 1998: 60 cases of salmonellosis associated with alfalfa/clover sprout mixture in California
· February 1996: 133 cases of salmonellosis associated with alfalfa sprouts in Oregon and British Columbia
· June 1995: 242 cases of salmonellosis in 17 states and Finland attributed to alfalfa sprouts
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of bacterial illnesses. William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million E. coli settlement with Jack in the Box in 1993. In 1998, Marler Clark resolved the Odwalla Juice E. coli outbreak for the five families whose children developed HUS and were severely injured after consuming contaminated apple juice for $12 million. Marler Clark presently represents over victims of Salmonella poisonings in the States of Washington, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, California, and New York.
More about the Harmony Farms sprouts Salmonella outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.