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Suit claims Las Vegas girl, 2, ate contaminated peanut butter

Steve Green, Las Vegas Sun

February 19, 2009

A Las Vegas couple say their 2-year-old daughter was poisoned by salmonella-contaminated peanut butter crackers at Christmas time and is suing two food companies over the episode.

Greg Hicks, the father of the child, said in the lawsuit that the girl ate Keebler’s peanut butter crackers and had to be taken to Summerlin Hospital twice with symptoms including bloody and profuse diarrhea, nausea and a fever.

"Greg and (spouse) Rachael Hicks soon thereafter learned from health officials with the state of Nevada that genetic testing had confirmed that the strain of Salmonella Typhimurium that had infected their daughter was the same as the strain involved in the (national) PCA/Kellogg’s peanut butter Salmonella outbreak,’’ the lawsuit says.

The family is represented in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Georgia against Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and Kellogg Co. by Seattle foodborne illness firm Marler Clark and by attorney Patrick Flynn of the Georgia firm Flynn, Peeler & Phillips. A Marler Clark spokeswoman said the couple would have no further comment on the suit.

The defendants have not yet responded to the suit. Kellogg has recalled numerous products -- including Keebler’s peanut butter sandwich crackers -- because of the salmonella outbreak.

The suit alleges negligence on the part of the defendants and seeks unspecified damages.

Marler Clark said the child is one of more than 640 people confirmed to have been sickened in the recent Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak.

Peanut Corporation of America filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 13, but attorney Bill Marler said he is moving to lift the stay of bankruptcy so that litigation can continue.

"Peanut Corporation of America is responsible for sickening hundreds and contributing to the deaths of nine,” Marler said in a statement. “The victims of this outbreak can’t put their bills on hold, and shouldn’t be asked to.”

The suit claims that after her first visit to the Summerlin Hospital emergency room Dec. 28, the girl was sent home and her parents were told to keep her hydrated. When her symptoms worsened they returned to the hospital the next day, and she was admitted and hospitalized for two days.

Salmonella Typhimurium illnesses were reported as early as August 2008, but were not linked to peanut butter until January, Marler said.

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