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Park settles last E. coli suit

Patricia Guthrie - Staff

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Friday, December 15, 2000

The last of a dozen lawsuits, filed by families of children sickened in a 1998 E. coli outbreak tied to Cobb County's White Water park, has been settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, attorneys said Thursday.

The family of Jordan Faith Shook of Cartersville, whose symptoms were among the most severe of the 26 children sickened by E. coli O157:H7, agreed to an out-of-court settlement.

The settlement was sealed in court records and will not be disclosed, said Bill Marler, attorney for James and Judy Shook, Jordan's parents.

"The family and I are pleased with the results and they're pleased to have this behind them," said Marler, the Seattle-based attorney who represented seven of the 12 families that individually sued the owners of White Water. He added that the settlement is being kept confidential because "it doesn't benefit the Shooks for people to know Jordan is a millionaire." The personal injury lawsuit claimed negligence on the part of White Water, a popular pool and amusement attraction now owned by Premier Parks' Six Flags Over Georgia. The settlement will be paid by AIG, the insurance company that provided commercial general liability coverage to the water park, owned by Silver Dollar City Inc. at the time of the outbreak.

In a report last year, the Georgia Division of Public Health linked the outbreak to fecal contamination and insufficient chlorine levels at a wading pool of White Water. Children became infected while playing in the pool; seven required hospitalization and one died. Since the outbreak, the water park has installed new chlorination systems and taken other steps to minimize health risks.

Billy Gunn, the Atlanta attorney representing White Water, said the company did not admit negligence in any of the settlements and it remains adamant it is not responsible for the illnesses.

"White Water didn't do anything wrong," Gunn said. "The company still specifically denies that chlorine levels have anything to do with this."

Jordan, now 6 years old and in first grade, has recovered better than doctors expected from a stroke, kidney failure and damage to other organs, Marler said. However, the long-term consequences of the infection are uncertain.

None of the dozen lawsuits filed against the park have gone to trial; all have been settled out of court for undisclosed sums. Those familiar with the cases say the awards range from $30,000 to several million dollars.

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