Marler Clark files lawsuit against Orchid Island, maker of Salmonella-contaminated orange juice


CHARLESTON, WV – A Salmonella lawsuit was filed against Orchid Island Juice Company of Fort Pierce, Florida, in US District court for the Southern District of West Virginia Thursday (case no. 5:05-CV-0586). The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Heather Dowdy, a Caldwell, West Virginia resident who became ill with a Salmonella infection after consuming Orchid Island unpasteurized orange juice. Ms. Dowdy is represented by Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm nationally recognized for the successful representation of victims of foodborne illness and David Delk, a respected Wheeling, West Virginia, lawyer.

Ms. Dowdy consumed Orchid Island orange juice on May 30, 2005, and became ill with symptoms of Salmonella infection on May 31. She went to the emergency room in Virginia Beach on June 2, and again on June 6, when she was admitted to the hospital for severe dehydration. Ms. Dowdy was discharged on June 8, but still suffers from complications of Salmonella infection, and has not yet been able to return to work.

“After the Odwalla and Sun Orchard outbreaks in 1996 and 1999, I would have thought that a juice producer would have more sense than to sell unpasteurized juice and risk facing me in a courtroom after they had poisoned their customers,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark. “But I guess the lesson has not been learned by all.”

In the lawsuit, which is based on the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, Marler alleges that “Orchid Island had a duty to use supplies and raw materials . . . free from adulteration and fit for human consumption, but failed to do so.”

Marler continued, “If Orchid Island had only pasteurized their juice, this outbreak would not have occurred. Heather Dowdy went through a terrible ordeal. She and other victims did not deserve this.”

On July 8, 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers against drinking unpasteurized orange juice products distributed by Orchid Island under a variety of brand names. At that point, there were reports of 15 cases of a matching strain of Salmonella bacteria causing illness in consumers in Michigan, Ohio, and Massachusetts. At least 16 other states reported cases of Salmonella that matched the specific strain found in Orchid Island orange juice. On July 15, 2005, Orchid Island issued a nationwide recall of fresh and frozen unpasteurized orange juice (see http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/default.htm). The CDC indicated that as many as 82 cases have been confirmed nationwide.

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ABOUT MARLER CLARK: Marler Clark has represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness outbreaks since 1993, when William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box. The firm has represented victims of Salmonella outbreaks traced to juice, cantaloupe, cereal, and food establishments whose products were determined to be the source of Salmonella outbreaks. For more information on Salmonella-related litigation, visit www.salmonellalitigation.com and www.salmonellablog.com.

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