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Mother of Jack in The Box outbreak victim dies

Suzanne Kiner, food safety advocate and mother of one of the child victims of the infamous 1993 Jack in The Box E. coli outbreak, died Jan. 5, 2016, at age 67.

Kiner’s daughter Brianne was 9 years old in 1993 when she contracted what developed into a life-threatening infection from E. coli in a fast food hamburger. The girl was not expected to live, but she turns 33 this month.

Four of the 623 families whose loved ones got sick from the undercooked Jack in The Box burgers were not that lucky. The E. coli O157:H7 outbreak claimed the lives of four children, according to public health records.

Brianne Kiner spent six months hospitalized, part of it in a coma, following the E. coli diagnosis. During that time six lawyers met with her family at her bedside to discuss legal options. The Kiners hired Bill Marler, a virtually unknown trial lawyer in Seattle.

The $15.6 million settlement Marler won for Brianne Kiner and her family from Jack in The Box and its parent company Foodmaker Inc. was the largest of its kind when it was awarded.

The Jack in The Box outbreak and the investigation into it thrust foodborne illness onto the national stage with Suzanne Kiner, her daughter and other victims speaking out about the need for food safety regulations and protocols. A sea change in food safety awareness followed in the United States. Government increased minimum cooking temperatures for certain foods and defined E. coli O157:H7 and several other foodborne pathogens as unacceptable “adulterants” in food.

In a blog post Jan. 12, Marler described Suzanne Kiner as an “E. coli hero” and recalled her devotion to her daughter.

“During her daughter’s E. coli illness in 1993 she never left the hospital for over six months and seldom left her daughter’s bedside. She willed her daughter to survive and to recover as much as the E. coli bacteria would allow,” Marler wrote.

“I will always be humbled and honored that she hired me to represent the family against Jack in the Box.”

Most recently Suzanne Kiner lived in Mulkiteo, Wash. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper published her death notice Jan. 11. Neither the Seattle newspaper nor the Mulkiteo Beacon had any additional details as of Jan. 12.

Editor’s note: To mark the 20th anniversary of the Jack in The Box outbreak, Food Safety News published a Q&A with Brianne Kiner. Read it here.

Food safety attorney Bill Marler is also the publisher of Food Safety News.

 

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