Suit Filed in Salmonella-Tainted Cantaloupe Illness


LOS ANGELES, CA -- A lawsuit was filed today in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of 15 month-old Nathan Eget of Tarzana, California. Nathan, and about 20 other people in at least 12 other states, contracted a rare strain of salmonellosis, Salmonella poona, after eating cantaloupe tainted with the bacteria. The California Department of Health Services (CDHS) determined that Nathan is a victim of this ongoing outbreak. The CDHS has also linked two deaths in California to this same outbreak.

An investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) traced the outbreak to “Viva” brand cantaloupe, which was imported from Mexico and distributed by Shipley Sales Service of Nogalas, Arizona. Shipley Sale Service is the defendant named in this lawsuit.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that cantaloupe has been implicated as the source in a Salmonella outbreak. In the past few years, nearly 1,000 cases of Salmonella illnesses have been tied to eating tainted cantaloupe,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark, the Seattle, Washington-based law firm representing the Eget family in this action. “We must do a better job of inspecting produce at our borders,” added Marler.

Nathan spent two days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center, and remained hospitalized there for more than a week. “We thought our son might die. The doctors and the hospital did a great job, but my son lived through a horrible experience,” said Nathan’s mother, Liz Eget. “You cannot imagine seeing all those IVs in such a young child, and wondering when, or whether, he would turn the corner,” she added. Liz and Rick Eget have thus far incurred about $40,000 in medical bills for treatment of their son.

“It’s my hope that this lawsuit will make grocery stores, restaurants, shippers, wholesalers, and growers more conscious of the risks of contaminated fruits and vegetables. Children shouldn’t be hospitalized, and people shouldn’t die, just because they ate a cantaloupe,” added Marler.

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Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of various foodborne illnesses. Its attorneys are currently lead counsel in actions related to E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and hepatitis outbreaks in several states. In February 2001, Marler Clark secured a $4.75 million jury verdict against the Finley School District in Eastern Washington after several children were infected with E. coli O157:H7 after eating contaminated beef served to them in a school lunch. These were the first E. coli cases in the county to go to the jury.

Earlier noteworthy successes include managing partner William Marler’s, $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box in 1993 for Brianne Kiner, after she was infected with E coli. O157:H7 during that highly publicized outbreak. In addition, Marler Clark resolved the claims of five families for $12 million in 1998, after their children were infected with E. coli 0157:H7 by drinking Odwalla apple juice contaminated with the bacteria.

More about the Viva cantaloupe Salmonella outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.