Publications


The Marler Clark attorneys are constant advocates for food safety. All of our lawyers have published articles and opinion-editorials on the topic of food safety or food safety litigation. Read published articles written by or about the lawyers at Marler Clark:

Bill Marler: Taking on E. coli, Big Ag, Raw Milk Conspiracy Theorists and the USDA

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about Bill Marler, the influential, outspoken, high-profile attorney who is representing Stephanie Smith in her $100 million lawsuit against Cargill. Smith, an ex-dance instructor from Cold Spring, Minnesota, almost died after eating a Cargill-produced hamburger, which was laced with E.coli O157:H7....

Bill Marler, Attorney, Blogger, and Food Safety Advocate, Talks Turkey (or Spinach, Rather)

When we first heard of Marler Clark, the "food safety law firm," we pictured a dozen ambulance chasers strategically posted outside of establishments that served spinach in large quantities throughout the day. After a few conversations with Bill Marler, however, we realized that our assumption couldn't be further from the truth.Marler is as passionate about preventing foodborne illness as he is about ensuring that victims are compensated for their medical bills, loss of wages, and decreased quality of life. He has petitioned the USDA for stricter food safety regulations, he works with nonprofit food safety organizations, and he helped push...

There Is So Much More Food Poisoning Than We Thought

But there’s one guy who has arguably won more battles against foodborne illness than anyone. This week’s Bite podcast guest is Bill Marler, a Seattle-based attorney who represents victims of food poisoning. In a landmark 1993 case, Marler sued Jack in the Box over its infamous E. Coli outbreak—and won. Since then, he’s gone up against dozens of food industry giants: McDonald’s, KFC, Cargill, Taco Bell, Odwalla, and most recently, Chipotle, to name but a few. In addition to his work as a lawyer, Marler also fights for our government to tighten the rules that food suppliers have to follow...

Food Fights - The Nation's Leading Foodborne Illness Attorney Tells All

Four children died in the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak. Brianne Kiner, Marler’s client, survived, but only after spending six weeks in a coma and six months in the hospital. His efforts resulted in a $15.6 million settlement for Brianne, the largest personal-injury settlement in the history of the state of Washington. The money is helping her recover—she had to learn to walk and read again—and will also pay for a lifetime of medical issues, including diabetes and kidney problems, resulting from her E. coli poisoning. Marler also negotiated settlements of at least $1.5 million for several other...

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This Food Poisoning Expert Revealed The 6 Things He Refuses To Eat

In early 2016, Marler compiled a list of six foods that he never eats (although, as we’ll explain shortly, he’s taken occasional liberties with one of those foods). The article quickly went viral, which didn’t surprise the attorney. “I get asked a lot about what foods I stay away from,” Marler explains to HealthyWay. ...

The Burger That Shattered Her Life

The New York Times | By Michael Moss Stephanie Smith, a children’s dance instructor, thought she had a stomach virus. The aches and cramping were tolerable that first day, and she finished her classes. Then her diarrhea turned bloody. Her kidneys shut down. Seizures knocked her unconscious. The convulsions grew so relentless that doctors had to put her in a coma for nine weeks. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. The affliction had ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed....

Serving up Trouble

The United States has seen several foodborne illness outbreaks in recent years, including a 2008 salmonella outbreak linked to raw tomatoes and peppers that sickened 1,442 people in 43 states,2 a 2006 E. coli outbreak that was later linked to Dole brand baby spinach and resulted in 204 confirmed E. coli cases,3 and a 2002 E. coli outbreak linked to ConAgra brand ground beef, in which nearly 19 million pounds of beef were recalled.4 Perhaps the most well-known foodborne illness outbreak in the United States was a 1993 E. coli outbreak associated with the Jack in the Box restaurant chain...

The World’s Largest and Deadliest Listeria Outbreak is turning 4 in March

In this article, Bill Marler, a Listeria attorney, writes about the 2017 and 2018 largest and deadliest outbreak of listeriosis to occur in South Afriica. The outbreak was caused by contaminated polony, a ready-to-eat, processed meat product. Ready-to-eat, processed meats are a well-known vehicle for listeriosis outbreaks (Thomas et al., 2020). The Minister of Health declared that there was an outbreak of listeriosis on December 5, 2017, that was linked to polony emanating from Tiger Brands’ Enterprise Foods production facility in Polokwane on March 4, 2018....

16 days hospitalized: Summer E. Coli outbreak linked to Wendy's takes a toll on Michiganders

The Marler Clark, E. coli attorneys represent 48 victims of the Wendy's E. coli outbreak. A total of 109 people from six states, including New York, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania, were known to be infected from July 26 to Aug. 17. Michigan had the greatest number of cases with 67. Ill people ranged from age 1 to 94. At least 52 were hospitalized and 13 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. No one died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By Oct. 4, the outbreak had concluded....

Will USDA do something about Salmonella at long last?

Bill Marler, the Salmonella attorney, has just visited Washington DC to push for immediate regulation and legislation. Politico notes that his visit comes on the heels of a scathing ProPublica investigation about multidrug-resistant Salmonella Infantis in poultry and our “baffling and largely toothless food safety system that is ill-equipped to protect consumers or rebuff industry influence.”...

Hammer Time: Preparation Pays When Disputes Escalate to Lawsuits

Bill Marler, of course, is William D. Marler, the Seattle trial lawyer whose firm is one of the nation's foremost litigators of lawsuits representing victims of foodborne illness. Since 1993, Marler and his partners have won millions of dollars in judgements and settlements in cases involving tainted food. Marler's high-profile product liability practice is just one example of the legal challenges facing the meat and poultry industry. Although lawsuits are part of any business-and as America continues to become a more litigious society-meat and poultry companies are seeing legal flare-ups on a variety of fronts including labor issues, environmental pollution...

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Bill Marler reflects on the case that launched his career in food safety

This year marks the 25th anniversary of a massive E. coli outbreak, which hit 73 Jack in the Box restaurants in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and California; sickened 700 people; sent 171 to the hospital; and killed four. The anniversary is a somber but noteworthy milestone for accomplished food safety attorney Bill Marler '87....

Bill Marler: 25 Years of Food Safety

In this episode of Food Safety Matters, we speak to Bill Marler about: The circumstances under which he met the late Dave ThenoThe Jack in the Box case and how it propelled his careerThe current listeriosis outbreak in South Africa, and how it compares to the Jack in the Box case 25 years agoWhy foodborne illness cases involving hamburger and Escherichia coli are no longer a huge problemHow the Odwalla apple juice outbreak could have been avoidedWhether or not Salmonella should be officially declared an adulterantThe responsibility of food safety: consumer vs. food industryHis thoughts on the ongoing Peanut Corporation...

Getting to Know Bill Marler: Distinguished Food Safety Attorney Has a Huge Heart for Victims + Survivors

In his work as an accomplished attorney and national food safety expert, Bill wears many professional hats that keep him hopping. At Marler Clark, “The Food Safety Law Firm,” Bill has represented and fought side-by-side thousands of people who’ve suffered the devastating health and life consequences of contaminated food products. In our Q & A below, you’ll learn more about Bill and what he urges you to do to help move our collective cause of food safety forward.. ...

He helped make burgers safer. Now he's fighting food poisoning again.

Washington Post | By Kimberly Kin | 2020 Bill Marler, the Seattle lawyer who represented hundreds of victims in the Jack in the Box food poisoning case in the 1990s, was outraged by the avoidable tragedy that sickened 700 and claimed the lives of four children. He courted the media to get the E. coli bacteria on the agenda of policymakers — and played a key role in getting the U.S. Department of Agriculture to outlaw the most virulent strains of the pathogen in meat. Now, Marler, 62, is at it again. This time he is taking aim at...

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Bill Marler On Food Safety & COVID-19

Prominent food safety attorney Bill Marler of Marler Clark LLP, who has been representing victims of foodborne illnesses since the early 1990s, recently spoke with Law360 about practicing remotely from his home on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound and about food safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic....

The Food Safety Imperative: Talking With Attorney Bill Marler

The massive 1993 E. coli outbreak linked to Jack in the Box burgers was a turning point for both food safety in the United States and young attorney Bill Marler. The experience of representing 9-year-old victim Brianne Kiner against the fast-food giant inspired Marler to focus his fledgling law career on foodborne illness. Since then, his Seattle law firm has represented thousands of victims of nearly every large foodborne illness outbreak in the United States for the past 26 years....

A Safer Food Supply

Attorney Bill Marler of Marler Clark in Seattle has dedicated his career to representing people injured by foodborne illness and to advocating for better food safety regulation. Trial spoke with him about what’s challenging about these cases, common misconceptions, and what more needs to be done to protect consumers....

'What else have they been missing?' Massive infant formula recall raises questions about FDA inspections

The very day that the FDA was told that a baby had been hospitalized with a potentially deadly bacterial infection after consuming infant formula, the agency’s own inspectors were in the plant that made the formula and found nothing serious enough to warrant regulatory action. Marler said that when he read the inspection reports, it was clear “there were problems that could have led to Cronobacter or other bacterial contamination.” “It does raise questions about how rigorous FDA’s inspections are, but also about how rigorous Abbott’s food safety program was,” Marler said....

The Past, Present and Future of Food Safety

“Upton Sinclair was writing a book about the labor problems in the Chicago stockyards, but what freaked everybody out was how meat was actually being made and whether sausage had sawdust or whatever in it,” said Bill Marler, foodborne illness attorney and managing partner at Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm....

Politico - The Bubbling Salmonella Food Fight

THE COMING FIGHT OVER SALMONELLA: There hasn’t been a high-profile fight over food safety in Washington in a while, but that might be about to change. Consumer advocates are upping their pressure on USDA to declare certain strains of salmonella as adulterants, essentially rendering them illegal in meat and poultry. (By the way, salmonella is already very much illegal in the rest of the food supply.)...

CBC: Romaine recalls: Why our salads can make us sick

Canada has been hit by a number of romaine lettuce recalls. We set out to the U.S., where the majority of our leafy greens come from, to dig up why E. coli outbreaks continue to plague our food supply. We meet one B.C. family whose lives have been forever changed by a contaminated salad....

Marler Clark, the Food Poisoning Lawyers, Interviewed in Foodservice Consultant Magazine

Bill Marler and his associates have dedicated significant amounts of time and money to educate and advocate all who will listen to what needs to be done to prevent future lawsuits. Here are some key pro-consumer actions taken by Bill and his team: Helped to pass the 2010-11 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act.Continues to be a strong advocate for Hepatitis A inoculations for all foodservice personnel.Is working diligently to require the USDA to have Salmonella (especially antibiotic-resistant) be declared an adulterant and, if found, have the product (raw chicken for example) recalled.A pro bono advocate for...

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The Danger in our Salad Bowls - The Boston Globe

RICHMOND, BRITISH COLUMBIA - It was the vacation of a lifetime for three generations of the Parker family. For much of 2018, Nathan Parker and his wife, Karla Terry, plotted their road trip from this Vancouver suburb down the Oregon coast to their final destination: Disneyland....

Gut Reaction - Bill Marler Talks about the State of our Food, Microbiological Investigation, and Jack in the Box

It helps to think of Bill Marler's area of law - plaintiffs' litigation for foodborne illness injuries - as less Law and Order, more CSI ... plus stool cultures. For Marler, a raspy-voiced, avuncular Seattle lawyer and a founding partner of Marler Clark LLP PS, most of his firm's work happens before the lawsuit is filed. By the time the firm approaches the defendant, he says, it's hard for a food manufacturer to argue the case because Marler Clark has already built a genetic fingerprint linking the plaintiff, the contaminated food source, and the party at fault. It's a uniquely...

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Raw Milk: An Issue of Safety or Freedom?

Attorney Drew Falkenstein wrote "Raw Milk" An Issue or Safety or Freedom" for the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health. In it he asks, "Is there any one food that is as frustrating as raw milk? Is there any other food that is a subject of so much passion, politics, and attempted persuasion? Have you ever wondered whether sale of the product could simply be outlawed entirely--or, for that matter, legalized everywhere?"...

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The Rights of Environmental Health Specialists to Conduct On-Site Inspections

In the September 2012 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health, Colin Caywood writes, "While every state law is different, environmental health specialists should feel comfortable in carrying out their job duties knowing that they have legal authority to perform their inspections and that refusal of access by a regulated entity has firm legal consequences."...

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Depositions 101

Patti Waller's article in the June, 2012 Journal of Environmental Health focuses on what environmental health professionals need to know about depositions in the event that they are required to appear and testify as a witness in a foodborne illness lawsuit. What Is a Deposition? A deposition is part of the process of assembling evidence before trial in a lawsuit. It is called by an attorney for one of the parties to a lawsuit and takes place away from the courtroom. There are several reasons to depose you as a witness. A deposition allows attorneys to evaluate how you will...

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Public Health Records That Stand Up in Court

David Babcock begins his article for the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health, "An environmental health inspector is writing up his or her restaurant inspection report. An epidemiologist is logging food history with an ill member of the public. In either case, the possibility that the document may someday be held to close legal scrutiny may be the furthest thing from their minds. But, while an exceedingly small percentage of food poisoning cases become legal matters, it does happen. And when it does, the documents generated by local health agencies are often front and center."...

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Why the Retention of Public Health Records Matters

Andrew Weisbecker wrote this article for the Journal of Environmental Health. In the article, Mr. Weisbecker addresses the need for public health agencies to put in place effective records and information management programs, establishing retention requirements based upon records' legal, fiscal, administrative, and historical requirements and values. He writes, "Without such requirements, organizations either destroy records that should be retained or retain everything, thereby taking a legal risk or assuming unnecessary costs."...

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Lawyers, Microbiologists and Safe Food

In his article for the June 2010 issue of Microbiologist Magazine, Bill Marler describes how his career in law has developed to encompass microbiological food safety. He explains the ways in which microbiology features in his day-to-day life as a plaintiff's attorney at Marler Clark....

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Legal Issues for Food Safety: What every food professional should know

In William Marler's article, which appeared in the Food Law & Guidance section of Food Safety & Quality Magazine, he states: "Preventing an outbreak is not only better for consumers but helps protect a company’s image and bottom line. In addition to the cost of defending against civil lawsuits, there is significant damage to business, including lost revenue, bad publicity and loss of future sales. To make matters worse, in some cases there might be criminal penalties. Understanding liability, minimizing risk and taking precautionary measures will help to safeguard a company’s future."...

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Contaminated Fresh Produce and Product Liability: A Law-in-Action Perspective

Denis Stearns wrote “Contaminated Fresh Produce and Product Liability: A Law-in-Action Perspective,” in Microbial Safety of Fresh Produce: Challenges, Perspectives, and Strategies, an IFT Press publication to be released in 2009. According to the publisher, “[the book] covers all aspects of produce safety including pathogen ecology, agro-management, pre-harvest and post-harvest interventions, and adverse economic impacts of outbreaks. The book examines the current state of the problems associated with fresh produce by reviewing the recent, high-profile outbreak sassociated with fresh-produce, including the possible internalization of pathogens by plant tissues, and understanding how human pathogens survive and multiply in water, soils, and...

New Kid on the Block

Colin Caywood wrote about his experience as a first-year associate at Marler Clark for the January 2009 issue of the King County Bar Association’s Bar Bulletin. In it, he points out that every new lawyer’s experience is different since every law practice is unique, then draws parallels between himself and his peers who are beginning new careers and are familiarizing themselves with the day-to-day aspects of being an attorney that law school does not prepare students for....

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Intentional Contamination: The Legal Risks and Responsibilities

Denis Stearns wrote this article for the Journal of Environmental Health. In the article, Mr. Stearns addresses who is legally responsible for injuries sustained after a person becomes ill after consuming a product that was intentionally contaminated before it was purchased. He wrote: Beyond the political implications of the use of food products as weapons, there is also the legal question of whether a company can be held liable for the criminal acts of an employee who decides, for whatever reason, to contaminate food products that then go on to make a number of people sick. To answer this question...

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Food Safety and the CEO: Keys to Bottom Line Success

William Marler's article for the October/November 2007 issue of Food Safety Magazine begins, "Foodborne illness has, of course, been around as long as there has been food. But the identification and diagnosis of these diseasesis an emerging science that is changing all sectors of the food business, and those chief executive officers (CEOs) and senior level directors and managers who do not keep up are bound to be at a significant disadvantage when making critical decisions about their businesses"....

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It's Not Just Montezuma's Revenge Anymore . . .

Dave Babcock wrote this article, which was published in the November, 2007 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health. The article begins, "ast night you attended a catered function for your favorite charity. Now, 24 hours later, you are feeling less than charitable. In the past hour, you have vomited five times. Your head is pounding, your back aches, and you have a fever. Just before the diarrhea begins, a friend from the charity’s board calls to see how you are doing. She informs you that several others who attended the function are sharing in your misery." The focus of...

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Alumni at the forefront of food poisoning litigation at Marler Clark

Lawyer, the Seattle University School of Law publication, featured Marler Clark in the summer 2007 issue of the magazine. In an Alumni Profile piece, Richard Farr focused on Marler Clark's food litigation, and the firm's ties to Seattle University. Partners Bill Marler and Bruce Clark both graduated from the Seattle University law school, as did associate Drew Falkenstein. Denis Stearns received his undergraduate degree from Seattle University, and Andy Weisbecker attended the university for his first three years of undergraduate study. Dave Babcock's wife, Catherine O'Neil, is a professor at the Seattle University law school....

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Class Action Foodborne-Illness Claims

Published in the Journal of Environmental Health, Andy Weisbecker's article focuses on the elements of a class action lawsuit, certification of a class, and gives reasoning to the decision behind bringing individual lawsuits on behalf of victims of foodborne illness: Because individuals injured in a foodborne illness outbreak sustain varying degrees of injuries, a class action lawsuit typically is not the most effective - or fair - way to compensate victims for injuries sustained after eating unsafe food....

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Cryptosporidiosis: A Recreational Water Threat That Hasn’t Gone Away

An article written by Bruce Clark for the Journal of Environmental Health that focuses on recreational water safety and the Cryptosporidiosis outbreak at the Seneca Lake State Park spraypark in 2005. He writes, "Given the poor public recognition of crypto symptoms, the likelihood that an infected person will be promptly diagnosed and will avoid behavior that could lead to transmission of the parasite is low". Thus, Cryptosporidiosis deserves significant consideration in the operation of any spray or water park....

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Searching for the Source: One Family’s Story

Marler Clark epidemiologist Patti Waller and Barbara Kowalcyk, whose son Kevin died after contracting an E. coli infection in 2001, co-wrote this article for the January/February 2006 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health. It describes the Kowalcyk family's struggle to find the source of Kevin's illness and public health agencies' responses to Barbara's and Marler Clark's requests for information. The article's authors make it clear that not every person with a foodborne illness is so “lucky” to benefit from a multi-agency investigation into the source of their illness....

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Legal Implications of Zoonotic-Disease Outbreaks at Petting Zoos and Animal Exhibits

E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks associated with attendance at fairs and petting zoos garnered significant media attention in recent years after outbreaks were traced to fairs in Oregon, North Carolina, Texas, and Florida. In this article written by attorney Dave Babcock for the November, 2006 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health, he addresses questions regarding responsible parties when an E. coli O157:H7 or other zoonotic disease outbreak is associated with a petting zoo, animal exhibit, or fair....

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A Legal History of Raw Milk in the United States

Marler Clark partner Andy Weisbecker began his article for the Journal of Environmental Health with a quote from Winston Churchill: “There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.” He then continued with an account of milk safety and the laws and regulations that have evolved to protect consumers from becoming ill from drinking milk produced in unsanitary conditions. He finished by saying that although laws and regulations are in place, "The sale of raw milk continues to be legal, in some form or another, in almost half the country’s states, and the attendant risk of...

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Where’s the Meat? The Need for Full Public Disclosure in Meat Recalls

Epidemiologist Patti Waller and attorney Denis Stearns wrote this column for the Journal of Environmental Health's June 2006 issue. The article focuses on the USDA's proposed rule on changing policy regarding public disclosure of the names of retail outlets that received potentially contaminated meat during a meat recall. The authors argue, "The revised recall policy proposed by USDA represents a commonsense approach that balances industry concerns and the public’s right to know. It is thus deserving of widespread public support."...

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The Use of Public Health Documents in Foodborne-Illness Litigation

Attorney Dave Babcock authored this article, which appeared in the September, 2006 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health. How public health documents are used in foodborne illness litigation is a popular topic among environmental health and health department audiences, and this article provides background for all public health audiences. Mr. Babcock explains, "Environmental health data may be used in conjunction with epidemiologic data to establish the liability of a defendant."...

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The Legal Implications of 'Toxic' Mold Exposure

A column written by Marler Clark associate Dave Babcock, which appeared in the April issue of the Journal of Environmental Health. The column includes a discussion of what toxic mold is, where exposures are occurring, legal claims resulting from mold contamination, and how to prevent mold exposure. It ends with practical information regarding toxic mold concerns: Landlords, building managers, and contractors should be aware of the risks presented by mold. Common sense would seem to dictate designing and constructing buildings with reduction of the likelihood of mold infiltration in mind. When mold does appear, early removal efforts are more likely...

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"A Future Uncertain: Food Irradiation from a Legal Perspective"

Marler Clark principal Denis Stearns wrote this chapter for the Institute of Food Technologists' book, Food Irradiation Research and Technology. The book's publisher states: Food Irradiation Research and Technology appeals to a broad readership: industry food scientists involved in the processing of meat and fish, fruits and vegetables; food microbiologists and radiation processing specialists; government and industry representatives involved in the import and export of food commodities; and industry, local, and state officials involved in educational efforts regarding food irradiation. The book was published in early 2006....

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Tracing Mad Cow Makes Litigation Unlikely

Marler Clark associate attorneys Dave Babcock and Drew Falkenstein co-authored an article on litigation resulting from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow) contamination for the March 2006 edition of the King County Bar Association's Bar Bulletin. The authors address the question of whether Mad Cow litigation is imminent head-on, stating, "It is difficult, at least in part due to the lengthy incubation period of the disease, to accurately assess the threat that BSE presents both in the U.S. and globally. Litigation to address individual cases of BSE is not imminent, and frankly can only come too late for the individual involved."...

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Recouping the Costs of Outbreak Investigations and Prevention

Marler Clark associate attorney Dave Babcock wrote an article on whether Environmental Health Agencies and Health Departments should seek reimbursement for costs involved in outbreak investigations and prevention in an article for the January/February 2006 Journal of Environmental Health. In the article, he addresses two key issues that influence a public health agency's decision to seek reimbursement: Replenishing the agency's budget to continue its primary functions and the fear that seeking reimbursement could lead to decreased cooperation from the entity responsible for the outbreak....

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How to Keep Your Focus on Food Safety

Printed in the June/July 2005 issue of Food Safety Magazine, an article written by Bill Marler about the food industry's reaction to claims of foodborne illness after the "discovery" of a finger in a bowl of Wendy's chili, which was later found to have been placed in the chili by the woman who "found" it. He addresses the treatment of legitimate and non-legitimate claims, and tells food companies, "If a claim has merit, treat the customer fairly and learn from your error. This will help you keep your eye on your bottom line as opposed to looking for the finger...

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An Introduction to Liability, Negligence, and All Things In Between

Marler Clark associate attorney Drew Falkenstein wrote this article for the Legal Briefs column in the September, 2005 Journal of Environmental Health. In it, he breaks down elements of a legal claim, including liability, negligence, duty, breach, and causation. He concludes, "For now you have, in nutshell form at least, the tools to assess virtually any situation in which a plaintiff files a negligence lawsuit against a defendant."...

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Immunities and Defenses for Allegedly Negligent Inspections

This article, written by Drew Falkenstein, appeared in the November, 2005 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health, and was a follow-up to his previous article, "An Introduction to Liability, Negligence, and All Things In Between." In this article, Drew addresses different states' laws regarding liability of environmental health professionals. He encourages environmental health professionals to find out whether your state is a “public-duty-doctrine” state or a pure “immunity” state. Then determine what exceptions apply....

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Intentional Contamination: Liability for the Criminal Acts of Employees

One of a series of articles written by Denis Stearns that address the legal risks faced by manufacturers and distributors of food products. In this article about whether an employer is liable if an employee intentionally contaminates a product, Mr. Stearns explains that, "The employer is vicariously liable for the negligence of its employee while on the job, which is to say the law treats the employer as if it committed the act itself. Employees or agents are merely an extension of the employing company, and that acts of one are the acts of the other." The article appeared in...

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Indemnification, Contribution, and Allocation of Fault: Shifting the Blame

In one of a series of articles written by Denis Stearns that address the legal risks faced by manufacturers and distributors of food products, he writes about indemnification. Mr. Stearns explains how an indemnity agreement works: "In contract, it is because you have a written agreement from a manufacturer, or your supplier, to pay damages you incur as a result of the product, often including attorney fees. In equity, the right to recover is because the law deems it unfair for you to be liable for anything but your own negligence." The article appeared in an online newsletter for ID...

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Product Distributor Liability: Some Different Scenarios

In an article for ID Access, Denis Stearns addresses liability for product distributors. He uses examples to further illustrate product distributor liability in practical scenarios such as in the case of when a distributor transports E. coli-contaminated lettuce or ground beef from a producer to a retailer. Central to his writing is the concept of a pass-through statute, of which he writes: What pass-through statutes do—when they work as intended—is help the plaintiff to find out the identity of the manufacturer in situations where that information might otherwise be hard to learn. The statute also protects non-manufacturing defendants avoid the...

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Chain of Distribution Liability: Tag, You're It

In one of a series of articles written by Denis Stearns that address the legal risks faced by manufacturers and distributors of food products, he explains chain of distribution liability in simple terms: If you had a role in the distribution of a defective product that ends up causing an injury, in half of the states you can be sued and held liable, even if you were nothing more than a conduit that moved an unopened box from Point-A to Point-B. The article appeared in an online newsletter for ID Access....

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Product Liability: How It Turned Strict

Mr. Stearns addresses the concept of strict product liability in one of a series of articles for ID Access that address the legal risks faced by manufacturers and food distributors: "Under the new rule of strict liability, to hold a manufacturer liable, a person injured while using a product need only show that: (1) the product was defective; (2) it was used as intended; and (3) the defect caused the injury. The care used in the manufacture of the product is irrelevant to the determination of liability. The only issue in a product liability case is the defectiveness of the...

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Product Liability: A Brief History of Its Early Origins

Denis Stearns begins a discussion of product liability law with a brief explanation of its origins: Product liability law evolved from contract law, with the first decisions strongly favoring manufacturers. For a very long time, the “general rule” was that a manufacturer could not be sued, even for negligence, by someone with whom he had no contract. This was called the “rule of privity,” and it was most famously set forth in an 1842 case that is bane of every first year law student’s existence—Winterbottom v. Wright. ...

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An Introduction to Product Liability Law

In Denis Stearns' first article for ID Access, he introduces readers to product liability law and the concepts behind it, beginning with: When a person is injured by a defective product that is unreasonably dangerous or unsafe, the injured person may have a claim or cause of action against the company that designed, manufactured, sold, distributed, leased, or furnished the product. In other words, the company may be liable to the person for his injuries and, as a result, may be required to pay for his damages. That, in short, is product liability; and, not surprisingly, the law that governs...

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Food Claims and Litigation

Written by Bill Marler for the February, 2005 Food Safety In-Sight newsletter by Environ Health Associates, Inc, Bill's paper on foodborne illness and tort begins, "In a perfect food safety world, operators of food facilities would place the health of the consumer above all else. Science-based foodborne illness prevention systems would be in place from farm to table and government in partnership with industry would effectively monitor the food supply so unsafe conditions could be detected and quickly corrected. In a perfect world, food safety would be a given."...

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Separating the Chaff from the Wheat: How to determine the strength of a foodborne illness claim

A paper presented at the May 2005 Defense Research Institute meeting on food liability written by Bill Marler and Dave Babcock. In the paper, Mr. Marler and Mr. Babcock use case studies to provide examples for how legitimate foodborne illness claims can be distinguished from illegitimate, or "bogus" claims. The attorneys provide information on tools used to evaluate claims at Marler Clark....

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An E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak at a Chain Restaurant

"An E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak at a Chain Restaurant: A Case Study on How Easily Legal Liability Can Spread to a Franchisor" was written by Denis Stearns for the February 2004 Law Journal Newsletters’ Franchising Business and Law Alert. Mr. Stearns concludes his article, "Insurance can be purchased to cover the risk of litigation, to hire attorneys, and to pay the cost of settlements and verdict. But there is no insurance against lost sales and a battered public perception—that is, except, to prevent the outbreak from occurring in the first place."...

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How to document a food poisoning case

In an article printed in the November, 2004 issue of Trial Magazine, written by Bill Marler and Dave Babcock, the attorneys explain: As a general rule, food poisoning cases are products liability cases.2 In other words, they are brought forward under the doctrine of strict liability. Since it does not require great legal argument to establish that a sandwich contaminated with Salmonella or some other pathogen is “defective” under statutory or common law definitions, the battle is fought in proving that the food your client consumed was in fact contaminated, and therefore the source of the client’s injuries....

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Why Hepatitis A Vaccinations are Bad for (My) Business

This article by Denis Stearns appeared in the July/August 2002 issue of Food Quality Magazine. Mr. Stearns begins the article, "Let’s be honest: as an attorney who makes a substantial portion of his living by filing lawsuits against restaurants, it’s not in my financial interest to have the National Restaurant Association (NRA) change its position on mandatory hepatitis-A vaccinations for food-handlers," and goes on to argue that food handlers play a large part in hepatitis A outbreaks and that, if food handlers were vaccinated against hepatitis A, Marler Clark would represent fewer clients in claims against restaurants that are the...

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E. coli Lawsuit Results in a $4.75 Million Jury Award for Injured Children

"E. coli Lawsuit Results in a $4.75 Million Jury Award for Injured Children: A Case Study in How Not to Learn About Food Safety" is article about the Almquist, et al. v. Finley School District E. coli O157:H7 litigation, written by Denis Stearns. In the article, Mr. Stearns argues that, "Indeed, if there is but one lesson to be learned from this case it is that no foodservice operation should assume, like the School District here appeared to have done – that its procedures are safe and adequate simply because no one has ever been made seriously ill."...

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The Courage to Criticize

Denis Stearns wrote a commentary on foodborne illness outbreaks and the key role criticism from the right people could play in preventing them. In the commentary, he discusses responses to particular outbreaks, including the public outcry, then states, "Notably absent, however, was any outcry from the juice manufacturing industry, the National Restaurant Association, or the public health officials involved in the outbreak investigations. And while I am not surprised at industry silence, I continue to be surprised when health department officials allow themselves to act as apologists, leaping to a company’s defense before an outbreak investigation has begun, or is...

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How a Tiny Law Firm Made Hay Out of Tainted Spinach

Before health officials warned the public about bad spinach, before grocers yanked fresh spinach off their shelves, before consumers cleaned out their refrigerators, the Seattle law firm Marler Clark had filed its first bad-spinach lawsuit....

Preempting Food Safety

Denis Stearns wrote, “Preempting Food Safety: An Examination of USDA Rulemaking and its E. coli O157:H7 Policy in Light of Estate of Kriefall ex rel. Kriefall v. Excel Corporation” for the Fall 2005 issue of the Journal of Food Law and Policy. The article uses the Kriefall decision to examine USDA rulemaking, and briefly describes the development and implementation of the USDA E. coli O157:H7 policy as a reaction to the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak as well as the USDA's move to a science-based HACCP model....

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Commentary on USDA rule-making process

In his 2002 commentary for the July/August edition of Food Protection Report, Denis Stearns writes about the Federal Meat Inspection Act and USDA’s rule-making process. In the commentary, titled, "USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Should Say What It Means, Mean What It Says--and Say It Clearly," he concludes, “[I]f federal law is going to sweep aside state law, then let it do so solely in the interest of the public health, and not as a way for the meat industry to avoid responsibility for the sale and distribution of unsafe products.”...

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