Parents sue Supervalu, supplier for daughter's E. coli infection

Supervalu Inc. and a Wisconsin-based meat supplier are being sued by an Inver Grove Heights couple whose 3-year-old daughter was hospitalized for more than a month after eating ground beef purchased at Cub Foods, a Supervalu subsidiary.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court, says Sonja Pearson became ill with an acute E. coli infection last November, a few days after eating ground beef purchased from Cub Foods in West St. Paul.

The toddler was taken to Children's Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., where she went into kidney failure and required dialysis for 27 days. She also developed peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdominal lining and internal organs, the lawsuit says.

By the time Sonja was released, her parents, Jim and Susanna Pearson had more than $220,000 in medical expenses, the lawsuit says.

Sonja sustained permanent kidney damage and has an increased risk of developing progressive renal disease, the lawsuit says.

Investigators from the Minnesota health and agriculture departments had determined American Foods Group Inc. (AFG) of Green Bay, Wis., had supplied the beef that Supervalu used to make the ground beef.

"We asked Supervalu/Cub to pay this child's medical expenses, but the bills remain unpaid. We then asked them to sit down with us and AFG to try to resolve this matter without the need for litigation, but again nothing happened," said William Marler, the Pearsons' attorney.

"I don't think anyone would dispute that this is a really tragic incident and we believe the Pearson family should be properly compensated for their injuries," said Polly Deane, a spokeswoman for Supervalu, in Eden Prairie. However, Supervalu believes AFG, as supplier of the contaminated product, is responsible for compensating the family, she said.

The Pearsons are seeking unspecified damages, including payment of medical costs and related expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, loss of wages, loss of enjoyment of life and emotional distress.

More than 40 people became ill during the E. coli outbreak in November and December.