Marler Clark files E. coli lawsuit against Cargill


SEATTLE, WA – An E. coli lawsuit was filed today in Minnesota against Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, the meat company whose frozen ground beef products were identified as the source of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in September and October. The lawsuit was filed in Dakota County District Court on behalf of Dakota County residents Eric and Jennifer Gustafson and their two children, Callie and Carson, who both suffered E. coli infections after eating Cargill ground beef patties at a barbecue in September. Callie’s E. coli infection led to hemolytic uremic syndrome, and she was hospitalized for seven days.

The Gustafson children’s cases were two of three E. coli cases that triggered an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Agriculture which eventually led to Cargill’s recall of 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties for E. coli contamination on October 6, 2007. The Cargill products were sold at retail establishments, including Sam’s Club, and to restaurants and other institutions throughout the United States. Since the investigation began in Minnesota, E. coli illnesses tied to Cargill ground beef products have been identified in Minnesota (5), Wisconsin (5), North Carolina (2) and Tennessee (3). Many of the E. coli cases involve children or young adults with HUS. According to news reports, children in Minnesota and Tennessee still remain hospitalized in critical condition.

“This is not the first time that Cargill or one of its many subsidiaries has had E. coli-related problems that led to illness,” said William Marler of Marler Clark, the Gustafsons’ attorney, who pointed out that he has represented victims of prior E. coli outbreaks traced to Cargill products. “In 2000, Cargill was implicated as the seller of E. coli-contaminated meat during the Milwaukee Sizzler E. coli outbreak that sickened 60 and killed one young girl. In July 2001, Cargill recalled 200,000 pounds of ground beef after being linked to an illness in Georgia. And again in 2002, Cargill sickened 57 in Wisconsin and Minnesota and recalled over 500,000 pounds of contaminated ground beef.”

Since spring of 2007, nearly 30 million pounds of ground beef has been recalled in the United States. Marler added, “It seems like the wheels are coming off the beef industry. With millions of pounds of meat pulled from shelves and hundreds sickened, there must be a through investigation of an industry clearly out of control.”

BACKGROUND: William Marler has been involved in E. coli cases since the Jack in the Box outbreak of 1993, when he won a settlement of $15.6 million for nine-year-old Brianne Kiner. His firm, Marler Clark, has prosecuted dozens of E. coli cases in Minnesota, including those related to the 2007 ground beef E. coli outbreak traced to PM Beef Holdings and Lunds Food Holdings; the 2006 E. coli outbreak stemming from consumption of E. coli-contaminated ground beef produced by Nebraska Beef and sold at Supervalu, then served at a church supper in Longville, Minnesota; the 2006 E. coli outbreak traced to the consumption of Dole brand baby spinach; a 2006 E. coli outbreak at Taco John’s restaurants that was ultimately traced back to E. coli-contaminated lettuce; an E. coli outbreak in 2001 that was traced to a China Buffet restaurant; and an E. coli outbreak in 2000 linked to ground beef produced by AFG and sold by Supervalu and Cub Foods.

Marler comments on food safety and E. coli outbreaks on his blog, www.marlerblog.com.