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Settlements reached with E. coli victims


of the Journal Sentinel staff

Oct. 29, 2001

Legal settlements covering more than $260,000 in medical bills have been reached between Sizzler USA and 20 victims of last year's E. coli outbreak linked to two area Sizzler restaurants, an attorney said Monday.

Bill Marler, a Seattle-based lawyer who represents nearly two dozen E. coli victims, said he was pleased Sizzler and E&B Management, the company that operated the two local Sizzler franchises, agreed to pay the medical costs.

"Sizzler stepped up and took responsibility," Marler said. "They did the right thing, and I commend them for that."

There were 62 confirmed cases of E. coli infection linked to the Sizzler at 789 W. Layton Ave. and two others to another Sizzler at 1900 N. Mayfair Road in Wauwatosa. A 3-year-old South Milwaukee girl died. Later, a state report suggested that hundreds of people became sick after eating at the two restaurants, which are now closed.

Authorities traced the infection of E. coli O157:H7 to tainted beef that was delivered to the W. Layton Ave. location. Workers allowed the pathogen to contaminate food served on the restaurant's salad bar, causing the illness.

Marler said the lawsuits seeking damages from Excel Corp., the meat processor that sold the beef to Sizzler, would be pursued.

"Excel was cited 26 times over a 10-month period before the Milwaukee outbreak for letting feces contaminate its meat," Marler said. "It knew the danger of E. coli and did nothing about it."

Attorneys for Sizzler USA and E&B Management could not be reached for comment on the settlements late Monday.

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