E. Coli Litigation

A resource for E. Coli Outbreak Legal Cases sponsored by Marler Clark

ProduceView Outbreaks

Fresh produce is often the source of E. coli outbreaks.

Because the physical characteristics of different types of produce vary, the risks of E. coli contamination also vary from one type of fresh produce to the next. Leafy greens, spices, low-growing and tree fruit, and sprouts have all been identified as the source of E. coli outbreaks.

In the case of leafy greens and other produce that grows close to the ground, the following means of E. coli contamination are known:

  • Farm equipment can contaminate fresh produce if it comes into direct contact with raw untreated manure, untreated compost, E. coli-contaminated water, animals that shed E. coli in their feces, or with infected workers.
  • Water used to irrigate produce can contaminate produce. Runoff should be diverted from fields growing fresh produce and should not be used for irrigation. In addition, E. coli present in flood water deposited on produce fields can contaminate the product before harvest. In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wrote in its “Letter to California Firms that Grow, Pack, Process, or Ship Fresh and Fresh-cut Lettuce/Leafy Greens” (pdf):
  • We would like to take this opportunity to clarify that FDA considers ready to eat crops (such as lettuce) that have been in contact with flood waters to be adulterated due to potential exposure to sewage, animal waste, heavy metals, pathogenic microorganisms, or other contaminants.
  • Wild animals such as deer and wild boars that harbor E. coli and other pathogenic bacteria can contaminate fields, especially fields in rural areas next to wetlands or wildlands. Domestic animals and livestock that make their way into fields can also contaminate fresh produce.
  • Field workers who are shedding E. coli in their stool can contaminate fresh produce if they do not use proper hand-washing techniques, or if proper toilet facilities are not available to them in the fields where they work.

In October of 2012, Wegmans brand organic spinach and spring mix, sold by State Garden, was the source of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak among residents of East Coast states. At least 22 New York state residents—mostly in Western New York, were part of the E. coli outbreak. See State Garden Spinach & Spring Mix E. coli Lawsuits & Litigation.

Lettuce sold by Freshway was linked to an E. coli outbreak in April and May of 2010. The CDC counted 26 confirmed and 7 probable E. coli cases in 5 states during the outbreak. E. coli cases were located in Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Most cases were college students.

In 2008, an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that began among students in Michigan spread to include at least 45 residents of Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Ontario, Canada. The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) joined with other public health agencies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate the outbreak, and quickly learned that industrial-sized packages of iceberg lettuce supplied by Aunt Mid’s Produce Company of Detroit to educational and other institutions was the source of the E. coli outbreak. A trace-back investigation revealed that the E. coli-contaminated iceberg lettuce had been grown in California. See Aunt Mid's Lettuce E. coli Lawsuits.

In 2005 and 2006, Dole brand produce was identified as the source of two E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks. During the 2005 outbreak, at least 23 people in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, were confirmed ill with E. coli infections after eating contaminated Dole brand lettuce. Residents of Wisconsin and Oregon also tested positive during the E. coli outbreak, which triggered the FDA to issue a nationwide health alert to warn the public not to eat Dole Classic Romaine, American Blend, and Greener Selection prepackaged lettuce. During the 2006 produce-related outbreak, the FDA and CDC confirmed 205 E. coli illnesses associated with the consumption of E. coli-contaminated Dole brand baby spinach, including thirty-one cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, 104 hospitalizations, and four deaths. Victims of the E. coli outbreak traced to spinach were identified in 26 states. After the outbreak was over, FDA announced that all spinach implicated in the outbreak had been traced back to a processing facility operated by Natural Selection Foods of San Juan Bautista, California, a company located in the Salinas Valley. A joint traceback by FDA and the State of California revealed that four spinach fields were the possible source of the E. coli contamination. The outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 was isolated from cattle fields nearby the implicated spinach fields, as well as from a wild boar that was killed in one of the fields. See Dole and Natural Selections Spinach E. coli Lawsuits.

Sprouts

Sprouts can harbor E. coli and other pathogens.

Sprouts are grown differently from other fresh produce; the temperature, humidity, and available nutrients that promote the sprouting of seeds also promote the growth of E. coli and other pathogens. Alfalfa, clover, and mung bean sprouts have all have been implicated as the source of E. coli outbreaks. Both contaminated sprout seeds and unsanitary conditions at sprouting facilities have been identified as potential sources of E. coli contamination in sprouts.

Raw clover sprouts served on sandwiches at Jimmy John’s restaurants across the Midwest were the source of a 2012 E. coli outbreak. That brought the number of outbreaks traced to sprouts served at Jimmy John’s to 4 in the last 5 years. Two outbreaks wereE. colioutbreaks; 2 were Salmonella outbreaks. See Jimmy John’s Clover Sprouts E. coli Outbreak and Lawsuits

In 2008, an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak was traced to the consumption of food prepared at the Boulder, Colorado, Jimmy John’s restaurant. The Boulder County Public Health Department (BCPH) investigated the outbreak associated with this restaurant, and counted 12 individuals who cultured positive for an indistinguishable strain of E. coli. This number included two employees who became ill with E. coli infections, yet continued to work at the restaurant in a food-handling capacity while symptomatic. Using a cohort study, BCPH determined that the most likely initial source of the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak was sprouts. It is also notable that BCPH inspectors observed improper hand washing during an inspection of the restaurant, which could have contributed to the spread of E. coli from ill employees to restaurant patrons. See Jimmy John’s E. coli Outbreak Lawsuit and Litigation.

Produce that grows on trees

Unpasteurized apple juice and cider can be contaminated with E. coli

Fruit and vegetable juices can become contaminated with E. coli before processing. E. coli outbreaks have been traced to fresh apple cider even when steps such as brushing and washing apples have been taken to reduce the opportunity for bacterial contamination. The use of “down” apples, or apples that have fallen to the ground before being harvested, is a risk factor for E. coli contamination since animals – like deer – that shed E. coli can forage for food in orchard areas and fruit can fall in animal feces as it drops from trees. Juice that has been pasteurized or has received other treatment, such as UV irradiation, surface treatment, or high pressure treatment is safe to drink. Juice that has not received such treatment may be contaminated with E. coli or other pathogens.

In November, 2010, apple cider sold by Baugher’s Orchard and Farm of Westminster, Maryland, was the source of an E. coli outbreak. Maryland public health authorities counted at least 7 E. coli infections associated with the consumption of Baugher’s unpasteurized apple cider. See Baugher’s Apple Cider E. coli Outbreak Lawsuit.

Probably the best-knownE. colioutbreak associated with juice occurred in 1996, when Odwalla recalled all juice products that contained unpasteurized apple juice in response to an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak among the company’s customers. A joint investigation between public health agencies from several states, British Columbia, the FDA, and CDC had identified more than 65 individuals who were confirmed ill as part of the outbreak, including more than a dozen children with hemolytic uremic syndrome and one child who died as a result of her E. coli infection. During its investigation into the source of the E. coli outbreak, FDA found numerous violations of health and safety codes at the Odwalla manufacturing plant, including lack of proper sanitizing procedures and poor employee hygiene. The FDA also found that the plant accepted decayed fruit from suppliers. As a direct result of the outbreak, Odwalla began pasteurizing its juices. The outbreak also spurred a response by the federal government, which now requires warning labels to be placed on all unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juice containers. In 1998, Odwalla was indicted and held criminally liable for the 1996 E. coli outbreak. The company pleaded guilty to 16 federal criminal charges and agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine.  See Odwalla Apple Juice E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits.

  • Aunt Mid’s Lettuce E. coli Lawsuits

    Marler Clark’s E. coli lawyers filed lawsuits on behalf of Michigan State University and University of Michigan students who became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating E. coli-contaminated iceberg lettuce supplied to campus dining centers by Aunt Mid’s Produce Company.  The E. coli outbreak, which was traced to lettuce grown in California, sickened at least 45 people in Michigan, Illinois, and Ontario, Canada.

  • Baugher’s Apple Cider E. coli Outbreak Lawsuit and Litigation

    Baugher’s unpasteurized apple cider was the source of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak among Maryland residents in October of 2010.  Marler Clark represented one of the victims of the E. coli outbreak.

  • California Romaine Lettuce E. coli Lawsuit

    In May 2008 ten people became ill with E. coli infections after eating romaine lettuce in restaurants and cafeterias in Thurston and Pierce counties of Washington State.  The E. coli outbreak was traced to commercial, bagged romaine lettuce from Salinas Valley, CA.  One of the victims was a student at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, WA who ate all of her meals on campus.  Marler Clark filed an E. coli lawsuit on her behalf on December 4, 2008.  The firm also represented a woman who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) as a result of consuming contaminated lettuce in this outbreak. Both claims have been resolved for confidential sums.

  • Dole and Natural Selections Spinach E. coli Lawsuits

    Marler Clark’s E. coli lawyers represented 93 individuals in claims resulting from the 2006 E. coli outbreak traced to fresh, bagged spinach. The firm filed its first E. coli lawsuit on September 14, 2006 on behalf of an Oregon woman who became ill with an E. coli O157:H7 infection in late August, 2006. Marler Clark has resolved the claims of 44 people the firm represented, including the families of three elderly women who died as a result of their E. coli infections. Most cases were resolved by October,  2008, but a final lawsuit was filed September 3, 2009 on behalf of one of the most seriously injured victims.

  • Dole Lettuce E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits

    The E. coli attorneys at Marler Clark represented several families who were victims of a 2005 E. coli outbreak traced back to Dole brand bagged lettuce.  The firm represented families from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Oregon whose members became ill with E. coli infections - some with hemolytic uremic syndrome.

  • Freshway Lettuce E. coli O145 Lawsuits

    Marler Clark filed the first E. coli Lawsuit in the outbreak of E. coli O145 linked to recalled Freshway romaine lettuce. That claim was successfully resolved prior to trial.

  • Glass Onion Catering & Gourmet Foods E. coli Outbreak

    The Marler Clark attorneys have filed 5 individual lawsuits against the parent company of Glass Onion Catering, Artherstone Foods.  The lawsuits were filed on behalf of California and Washington residents who fell ill with E. coli infections in October and November of 2013 after eating salads purchased from Trader Joe’s locations.

  • Gold Coast Produce E. coli Lawsuits

    Marler Clark represented 25 clients in E. coli litigation against Pat & Oscar’s and Family Tree (Gold Coast) Produce after lettuce sold by the companies was identified as the source of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak among residents of southern California.

  • Jimmy John’s E. coli Outbreak Lawsuit & Litigation

    The Marler Clark law firm represents several victims of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that was traced to a Boulder, Colorado Jimmy John’s restaurant that served E. coli-contaminated sprouts.  The firm filed an E. coli lawsuit against Jimmy John’s on October 14, 2008.

  • Odwalla Apple Juice E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits

    Marler Clark represented several children who suffered HUS and permanent kidney damage as a result of drinking E. coli-contaminated Odwalla juice in 1996.  The majority of claims were resolved in early 2000 for a reported $12 million.  The firm has since represented additional children injured during the outbreak in E. coli claims against the company.

  • Parsley E. coli Lawsuit and Litigation

    Marler Clark’s E. coli lawyers represented a woman in an E. coli lawsuit against a parsley grower after the grower’s parsley was identified as the source of an E. coli outbreak among patrons of several restaurants in Washington and Oregon.  The E. coli claim was resolved in 2006.

  • Peninsula Village E. coli Case

    Marler Clark’s E. coli attorneys represented a young child who became ill with an E. coli O157:H7 infection while living at Peninsula Village, a long and short-term treatment center for children. The law firm brought an E. coli claim against the treatment center on her behalf when she contacted the firm about pursuing an E. coli lawsuit several years later.

  • Schnucks Romaine Lettuce E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits and Litigation

    Marler Clark E. coli attorneys have filed two lawsuits on behalf people made seriously ill with E. coli illnesses after consuming romaine lettuce from Schnucks supermarket salad bars. Along with Schnucks, Moore, Oklahoma-based distributor Vaughan Foods has been added as a defendant in all litigation related to this outbreak.

  • Sodexho E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits

    Marler Clark’s E. coli lawyers represented one woman who became ill with an E. coli infection and the family of another woman who died after becoming ill with E. coli infections when they were living at the Sequoias, a retirement center.  The women’s illnesses were caused by consumption of E. coli-contaminated spinach brought into the facility and served by Sodexho.

  • Spokane Produce E. coli Lawsuits

    Marler Clark represented eight people in E. coli claims against Spokane Produce, the company whose lettuce was identified as the source of an E. coli outbreak among teenage girls attending a dance camp at Eastern Washington University.  The E. coli lawyers represented several other people from the Inland Northwest who also became ill as part of the E. coli outbreak but who did not eat lettuce at the camp.

  • State Garden Spinach & Spring Mix E. coli Lawsuits & Litigation

    Marler Clark represents several victims of a 33-person E. coli outbreak that was traced to Wegmans Organic Spinach and Spring Mix sold at Wegmans stores on the East Coast in October, 2012.  The firm has filed 3 lawsuits on behalf of E. coli outbreak victims from Western New York.

  • Taco Bell E. coli Lawsuits

    Marler Clark represented six victims of the outbreak; all were successfully resolved after an E. coli lawsuit was filed on behalf of the sixth victim on May 20, 2008. The lawsuits were filed in New York and Pennsylvania, and some list Ready Pac, Taco Bell’s fresh produce supplier, as an additional defendant. Health officials determined that lettuce was the source of the E. coli outbreak.

  • Taco John’s E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits

    Marler Clark represented several individuals in E. coli lawsuits against Taco John’s, filing three suits against the restaurant - one on behalf of an Iowa child who became ill with E. coli and hemolytic uremic syndrome after eating soft tacos at the Taco John’s restaurant in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Health officials in Iowa and Minnesota counted at least 70 ill individuals as being part of the E. coli outbreak traced to Midwest-based Taco John’s.

  • Wendy’s E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits - Utah, 2006

    Marler Clark filed an E. coli lawsuit against Wendy’s on August 11, 2006. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Utah family that became ill with E. coli O121:H19 infections after the mother was served E. coli-contaminated lettuce at a convention catered by an Ogden, Utah, Wendy’s restaurant.  Marler Clark also represented two other women who became ill with hemolytic uremic syndrome after eating contaminated lettuce served at the Wendy’s.  All matters have been resolved.