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Grower Sues Carrier Over Outbreak

A June 2006 outbreak of E. coli O121:H19 at a Wendy’s restaurant in Ogden, Utah continues to make news.

Salinas, CA-based Pacific International Vegetable Marketing Inc., a privately-held company, is suing TWIW Insurance Services, the largest private insurance brokerage in central California, in Utah courts.

Pacific International obtained insurance for its lettuce operations from TWIW, but the insurance carrier refused to get involved in claims that were paid out by the grower.   The insurance company said tests did not prove the Pacific International’s lettuce was the source of the E. coli.

Pacific International says it paid out $1.5 million in claims for 14 people.  It is seeking an underdetermined amount from TWIW.

Wendy’s was not named in the lawsuit filed by its lettuce supplier against its insurance carrier.

All the E. coli O121:H19 victims settled their cases in the Ogden Wendy’s outbreak by May 2008.

Those attending a teacher’s conference in Ogden were among those involved in the outbreak.  The Weber-Morgan Health Department (WMHD) found at least three of the attendees had contracted O121:H19 strain of E. coli, and the illnesses were confirmed as stool culture positive infections.

On Aug. 2, 2006, the WMHD said those three people were infected with the E. coli strain and that two of the individuals had developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). The health department found the three people had contracted E. coli from the same source during June 27-30 at the Ogden Wendy’s.

By Aug. 7, 2006, the WMHD revised its findings to include four victims, including three with HUS.

The health department concluded iceberg lettuce grown in California and prepared at Wendy’s was the source of the infection.  One of the victims with HUS, who had not attended the teacher’s conference, ate cheeseburgers with iceberg lettuce during the same time period at the Ogden Wendy’s.

A second HUS case attended the conference and the third case of HUS was found to be a secondary transmission by someone who was infected at the conference.

The Seattle food safety law firm of Marler Clark represented all the HUS and culture confirmed cases in the Ogden Wendy’s outbreak.  The WMHD eventually found at least 69 people became ill in the outbreak.

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