Second lawsuit filed against Sodexho in connection with Sequoias Retirement Village E. coli Outbreak


REDWOOD CITY, CA — A second E. coli lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of Sarah Ish, a Sequoias Portola Valley retirement facility resident who suffered from an E. coli O157:H7 infection in October, 2003. The lawsuit, which was filed in San Mateo Superior Court, is against Sodexho, Inc. the food provider for the Sequoias’ residents. Ms. Ish is represented by Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm nationally recognized for its successful representation of victims of foodborne illness, and Keeney, Waite & Stevens, a respected California law firm.

Ms. Ish was one of thirteen Sequoias residents and employees who confirmed positive with E. coli infections during the outbreak, and one of seven residents who were hospitalized for treatment of their E. coli infections. Health officials traced the outbreak to contaminated raw spinach which was served to Sequoias residents by Sodexho, a food service company.

“Senior citizens are more at-risk for foodborne illness because, as we age, our immune systems weaken. Ms. Ish’s body had to fight harder to rid itself of the E. coli bacteria,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark. “Ms. Ish continues to suffer from confusion and loss of energy as a consequence of her E. coli infection, nearly a year after she was hospitalized.”

This is the second E. coli lawsuit brought against Sodexho by Marler Clark and Keeney, Waite & Stevens. The first was brought on behalf of the family of Alice McWalter, a Sequoias resident who died as a result of her E. coli infection. “Sodexho to date has shown no interest in discussing a fair resolution to this or any of the cases, it is time to force them to be responsible,” said Marler.

“I’ve said it before, but the food industry in California was, or should have been, extremely concerned with fresh produce safety at the time of this outbreak, since an outbreak in the San Diego area had been traced to E. coli-contaminated lettuce just weeks before,” Marler concluded.

Forty-six residents and employees at the Sequoias reported symptoms of E. coli infection during the San Mateo County Health Services Agency investigation of the outbreak.

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BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of E. coli illnesses. The firm has represented over 1,000 E. coli victims since 1993, when William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million E. coli settlement with Jack in the Box. In 1998, Marler Clark resolved the Odwalla Juice E. coli outbreak for the five families whose children developed HUS and were severely injured after consuming contaminated apple juice for $12 million. In September, 2003, the Washington Supreme Court declined to review a decision upholding a $4.6 million award to 11 children injured in a 1998 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that was linked to undercooked taco meat served as part of a school lunch at an elementary school. Marler clark represented 24 victims of E. coli poisoning traced to contaminated lettuce served at Pat & Oscars restaurants and school lunch programs in San Diego and Orange Counties in September and October, 2003.

More about the Sodexho spinach E. coli outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.