Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of 84-year-old Washington State Resident Sickened with Salmonella


Salmonella cases on the rise nationwide; Local attorneys from Marler Clark call for “country of origin” labeling on produce to protect consumers

SEATTLE, WA -- A lawsuit was filed today against I. Kunik Co., a foreign distributor of cantaloupes to grocery chains throughout the United States, on behalf of Harold Elli. Mr. Elli, an 84-year-old Klickitat County, Washington, resident, became seriously ill with salmonella after consuming contaminated Susie brand cantaloupe, which was provided by the defendant. Marler Clark, the Seattle-based law firm nationally known for its successful litigation of cases involving food borne illness, filed the complaint.

According to the complaint, Mr. Elli purchased a cantaloupe on April 15 from a Safeway store in The Dalles, OR. Soon after eating the contaminated fruit, Mr. Elli began to experience intense vomiting, severe diarrhea and fatigue. Over the next several days, Mr. Elli’s symptoms worsened and on April 20, his son Mike convinced him to seek emergency medical care. He was brought to Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles, OR where he was diagnosed with severe dehydration that had deteriorated his kidney function.

For almost two weeks, Mr. Elli was in a life-threatening situation, as he lay, unresponsive, in his hospital bed. During this time, Mr. Elli tested positive for Salmonella Poona. Eventually, Mr. Elli’s condition started to improve and, on May 9, he was discharged from the hospital. However, he is still undergoing recovery treatments at the Evergreen Health and Rehabilitation Center and will continue these treatments for the foreseeable future. Soon after Mr. Elli’s release from Mid-Columbia Medical Center, the Food and Drug Administration issued a report warning consumers about an outbreak of Salmonella Poona connected with Susie brand cantaloupes. It is believed that dozens of people across the United States were affected.

According to Bill Marler, the attorney for Mr. Elli, “Over the last decade, several outbreaks of Salmonella have been linked to imported cantaloupe, including 43 people in six states who became ill in 2000. In 1991, a tainted supply of the fruit poisoned over 400 people in 23 states and, in 1990, another outbreak caused 245 people from 30 states to become ill.”

Two lawsuits stemming from an outbreak of Salmonella connected to tainted Viva brand cantaloupe purchased in California were settled last week. In the cases, a 15-month-old toddler became seriously ill and a 78-year-old woman died after becoming infected with the bacterium. Marler Clark represented both victims.

This current case is just one in a series of Salmonella outbreaks that have occurred across the country in recent months.

·       The Wyndham Anatole in Dallas, TX exposed over 1,000 guests and convention goers from all over the country to the virus over a three-week period from March to April 2002

·       A restaurant in Spruce Pine, NC is currently being investigated by local health officials regarding an outbreak that could result in as many as 300 victims.

·       Earlier this month, a Menomonie, WI Subway franchise was found to be the culprit in an outbreak involving almost two dozen area residents.

The incubation period for Salmonella can be anywhere from 6 hours to 10 days, with most infected individuals displaying symptoms between 6 and 48 hours after initial exposure. Symptoms of Salmonella usually last four to seven days, although it can be several months before victims are completely recovered. In severe cases, the infection can spread from the intestines to the bloodstream causing septicemia—commonly known as blood poisoning—a potentially fatal complication. Infants, the elderly, and people suffering from conditions weakening their immune systems, are most susceptible to the devastating effects of the virus. For more information about Salmonella, please visit www.about-salmonella.com.

Salmonella is generally found in uncooked poultry, ground beef and eggs. Therefore all should be cooked thoroughly and reach a temperature throughout of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Kitchen work surfaces, utensils, and hands should be thoroughly washed immediately after they have been in contact with meat or eggs. In addition, Salmonella is also present in unpasteurized milk, which can cause E. coli, a potentially deadly infection.

###

Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of all food-borne illnesses. Marler Clark has settled several Salmonella and Hepatitis A actions for over $1 million. The partners at Marler Clark also speak frequently on issues of safe food and have formed OutBreak, Inc., a non-profit business dedicated to training companies on how to avoid foodborne diseases.

More about the Sun Orchard orange juice Salmonella outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.