An E. coli outbreak that hit a Joplin day-care center in May and June, affecting as many as 26 children, has generated its first lawsuit.
Patricia and Asa Wasden, parents of Ian Wasden, a 2-year-old boy who reportedly suffered from hemolytic uremic syndrome after contracting the E. coli bacteria in June, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Jasper County Circuit Court against Kid's Korner Day Care Center, 2602 S. Wall Ave.
The Wasdens have retained the Marler Clark law firm in Seattle, Wash., which specializes in representing E. coli victims. According to court records, the Wasdens are now living in Bedford, Texas.
Attorney William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million E. coli settlement with Jack in the Box after she consumed poorly cooked hamburger in 1993. The firm in 1998 resolved for $12 million the Odwalla Juice outbreak of E. coli for five families whose children developed hemolytic uremic syndrome after consuming contaminated apple juice.
The syndrome causes sudden, short-term kidney failure in children.
The local suit seeks unspecified damages related to Ian Wasden's illness and hospitalization. The suit seeks compensation for past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and lost wages of family members.
Efforts to reach the manager of the day-care center for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.
The E. coli outbreak was linked to the day-care center after several children who attended the center fell ill with bacterial infections in May. The suit alleges that health officials instructed the managers of Kid's Korner to notify the families of all children enrolled there of the outbreak to prevent illnesses. According to the suit, the Wasdens never received notification from the center.
The suit says it was not until June 1, the date that Ian Wasden fell ill with symptoms related to his E. coli infection, that his parents learned about the outbreak.
Marler, in a prepared statement, said: "After the first child attending Kid's Korner tested positive for E. coli, the day-care operators should have notified all parents and taken extra precautions to ensure that no other children became ill.
"Instead, they continued to operate the daycare as if nothing was wrong, which probably led to dozens of illnesses that could have been prevented."
Through interviews by the law firm with families and officials with the Joplin Health Department, it is alleged that Kid's Korner failed to notify 32 percent of the families whose children had attended the day-care center.
The suit alleges that 26 children attending Kid's Korner experienced diarrhea during the month of May. Bloody diarrhea is one of the primary symptoms of E. coli infection.
The outbreak caused serious illness in at least six children, according to city and county health officials. Two of the children who became ill were from the Carthage area. One of them was enrolled in the day-care center. That child was the index case who exposed the bacteria to the other children at the center.
The investigation by county and city health officials showed that the other child from Carthage was not enrolled at the day-care center and did not have any connection to the index case. Neither of the children from Carthage was linked to an E. coli source.
At the same time the cases were developing, county health officials received notice from health officials in St. Louis that a child there, who had traveled through Jasper County in May, had been diagnosed with an E. coli infection. The child could not be connected to the Carthage children.
The investigation revealed no connection between the outbreak and the operation of the day-care center.
Drew Falkenstein, a lawyer with Marler Clark in Seattle, said Wednesday in a telephone interview: "The day-care center was responsible for our client's E. coli infection under the facts that have been revealed.
"Where it came from, the mode of transmission into the day care, we are not sure. But, we do know our client's parents were not informed of the outbreak, and they are responsible for that and the child's subsequent infection."
Falkenstein said Ian Wasden was hospitalized for nearly three weeks, and that he went through a full week of kidney dialysis, seven blood transfusions, three surgeries and a severe case of pancreatitis.
The E. coli 0157:H7 organism lives in the intestines of healthy cattle. Meat can become contaminated during slaughter. The organisms can be thoroughly mixed into beef when it is ground. If the ground beef is not thoroughly cooked, the bacteria survive and can be ingested.
Each year in the United States, an estimated 73,000 cases of infection and 61 deaths occur because of E. coli, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.