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California couple sues SoyNut Butter Co. for E. coli infecton

Monday, March 13, 2017 21:25
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A second federal lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois against the SoyNut Butter Co over the ongoing E. coli outbreak. The civil action also names John Does 1-3 to eventually rope in defendants “whose identifies and citizenship are presently unkown,” but who “were involved in the manufacture, distribution, and/or sales that caused Plaintiffs’ associated injuries.

Plaintiffs bringing the action are  from Santa Clara County, CA – Lisa Leavitt-Garcia and Rolando Garcia. They’ve chosen to sue the SoyNut Butter Company in the federal court for Northern Illinois because the company is located in Glenview, IL.

According to the complaint, filed by attorneys Gary A. Newland of Arlington Heights, IL and Bill Marler and Drew Falkenstein, both of Seattle,  Lisa Leavitt-Garcia was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose where she tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, treated and released after four days to continue her recovery at home. Days earlier she had become ill with gastrointestinal symptoms after consuming SoyNut Butter purchased at California Target store.

In their complaint, the Plaintiff attorneys say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating –in conjunction with local health officials-an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to consumption of the I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut butter produced by the Glenwood, IL-based SoyNut Butter Co.

The first civil action stemming from the current outbreak was filed March 7th against SoyNut Butter Co. on behalf of an 8-year old child now  with life-long health consequences resulting from the E. coli infection.  That case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve.

According to the latest CDC report, at least 16 people in nine states are infected with the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak strain. The states with illnesses identified are: Arizona, (4), California, (4), Maryland, (1), Missouri (1), New Jersey (1), Oregon (2), Virginia (1), Washington, (1), and Wisconsin (1).

Eight of the 16 sickened have required hospitalization. Five of those infected have developed the life-threatening Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome or HUS, which can shut down the victims kidneys. No deaths have yet been associated with the outbreak.

Plaintiff’s say I.M Healthy SoyNut Butter is the “likely source” of outbreak strain, noting the company is now involved with an expanded recall of it product. They are seeking relief on three counts: strict product liability, negligence, and breach of warranty.

Under the first claim, the California couple says the defendants are “strictly liable to the Plaintiffs for harm proximately caused by the manufacture and sale of unsafe and defective food product.”

As for negligence, the complaint says the defendants “designed, manufactured, distributed and sold” I.M.  Healthy brand SoyNut Butter that was “contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, a deadly pathogen.” They also say the company failed to test for microbial pathogens, like E coli O157:H7.
In offering the product for sale, SoyNut Butter was “impliedly warranted” that the product was safe the eat, the complaint continues. They are seeking a damage award plus costs to “fully and fairly” compensate the Plaintiffs.

The second case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Jorge A. Alonso.   SoyNut Butter Co. is being served both cases, but has not yet responded to either complaint.

Bill Marler is the managing partner of the nationally known food safety law firm of Marler Clark.  He is also publisher of Food Safety News,


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