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E. Coli Death Lawsuits Settled


The California farm that grew the spinach linked to last year’s nationwide E. coli outbreak, and the two companies that processed and marketed it, have settled lawsuits with the families of three women who died, two of whom had not been included in the official death toll, according to a news report in the Los Angeles Times.

The attorney for the three families said Mission Organics, Natural Selection Foods and the Dole Food Co. agreed late last month to confidential settlements in the deaths of Ruby Trautz, 81, of Bellevue, Neb.; Betty Howard, 83, of Richland, Wash.; and June Dunning, 86, of Hagerstown, Md., the Times article said.

The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the E. Coli outbreak in September 2006 caused 205 illnesses and three deaths across 26 states and Canada. Only Trautz was included as one of the three official deaths. Howard was counted as one of the illnesses. According to Howard’s attorney, she died in early January after a lengthy hospitalization.

The CDC considered Dunning’s death “a suspect case” because she had eaten from a bag of Dole spinach that was later part of the unprecedented recall and her stool tested positive for the toxic E. coli O157:H7, the article said. However, a Maryland laboratory lost the stool sample before it could perform a DNA “fingerprint test” to conclusively link her to the outbreak. The other two confirmed deaths were of an elderly woman in Wisconsin and a 2-year-old child in Idaho.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and California’s Department of Health Services, who concluded their investigation on the matter last month, traced the contaminated spinach to a 50-acre field in San Benito County leased by Mission Organics and said that the most likely source of the deadly bacteria was water or wild pigs. The tainted spinach was processed at the Natural Selection plant and sold under a Dole label.

E. Coli can also be transmitted through restaurant food that is being prepared in unhygienic conditions. For more information about Orange County restaurants that have been shuttered because of unsanitary conditions and to learn more about food-borne illnesses, visit the Orange County Health Care Agency’s Website.

To talk about your legal options in a food-poisoning case, call us, Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys, at 800-259-6373 for a free consultation.

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