The 2006 outbreak of E. coli tied to spinach sickened more than 205 people nationwide, many gravely. More than 31 developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) and five lost their lives. One of the most critically ill was Jane Majeska of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, an 85-year old woman whose fight to stay alive in the months after she consumed the Dole E. coli O157:H7-tainted spinach cost almost a $500,000 dollars. William Marler of the Seattle-based foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark, along with the Fond du Lac firm of Sager Colwin Samuelsen, filed the lawsuit today in the Fond du Lac branch of the Wisconsin Circuit Court against Dole, Natural Selection Foods. Mission Organics, and Pic-n-Save.
“This amazing woman fought through serious medical traumas and has continued to fight to win back her health,” said Marler. “Jane Majeska is alive today because she was incredibly healthy and active before she ate contaminated food, because she had tremendous medical care, and because she fought every hour of every day to get better,” continued Marler. “No one should have to go through that, but if they do, they certainly shouldn’t have to sue to be compensated for it. But sometimes, that’s what it takes.”
Jane Majeska ate Dole spinach in late August 2006. Within days, she was experiencing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that became bloody. She was admitted to the hospital as her kidneys failed and she was diagnosed with HUS. Her months in the hospital were marked by increasingly invasive procedures to address her cascading illnesses. In addition to renal failure, she experienced stroke, cognitive impairment, a collapsed lung, a pulmonary embolism, and the inability to eat or breathe on her own. She was given dialysis, blood transfusions, plasmapheresis, and survived on a feeding tube and ventilator. Even as she began to improve, she required aggressive physical, occupational, and speech therapy, as well as rehabilitation nursing.
Although E. coli outbreaks are often associated with meat, produce-borne outbreaks have become more frequent in recent years. The Center for Science in the Public Interest noted that fully 25 percent of E. coli outbreaks from 1990-1998 were traced to produce. Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that over the last 12 years, twenty-two E. coli outbreaks have been traced specifically to leafy greens.