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Woman Who Was Paralyzed Settles Case

By Nick Grube, The Daily Triplicate

November 9, 2009

A settlement has been reached in a case involving Alexandre Family EcoDairy Farms and a local woman who became paralyzed by a rare neurological disorder after drinking raw milk.

No lawsuit was filed in the matter, and instead it was resolved through a claim with the Fort Dick dairy’s insurance provider.

As part of the agreement reached late last week, the amount of the settlement is confidential and neither party is allowed to talk about the specifics.

Seattle-based attorney Bill Marler, who represented Crescent City resident Mari Tardiff in the case against Alexandre EcoDairy, said there’s no intent to pursue any further legal action.

“Clearly everyone wants to get this behind them,” Marler said. “The Tardiffs and Mari have a lot of work to do for the rest of their lives and the last thing they need is litigation.”

Mari Tardiff became ill in June 2008 after drinking raw milk from the dairy that was infected with campylobacter, a common food-born pathogen found in domesticated animals.

As a result, the 54-year-old public health nurse developed a form of Guillain-Barré syndrome that paralyzed her to a point where she was placed on a ventilator for nearly three months.

State and local public health officials eventually found 14 other people in Del Norte County who had consumed raw milk from the organic dairy and got sick between May and June of 2008. Anadditional person who was also ill during that time denied drinking raw milk, but worked closely with the cows at the dairy.

Tardiff is still recovering from Guillain-Barré. She cannot walk on her own and relies on two caregivers to assist her. Her attorney said that her medical bills to date have exceeded $1 million.

Blake Alexandre, who owns Alexandre EcoDairy with his wife Stephanie, said Wednesday his main concern is not with the settlement, but with Mari Tardiff’s well-being.

“Money means nothing to us in this,” Alexandre said. “What would bring closure to us is to see Mari 100 percent better, and to see people in our community get back to a level before this happened and somehow see people heal and learn from this.”

Tardiff also said she wants to focus on the future. She’s still in a wheelchair, and hopes to recover enough to dance with her youngest son at his wedding next summer.

“I still have to heal, and that’s what I’m concentrating on,” she said. “I’m looking straight ahead.”

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