Twelve Oklahoma families yesterday sued the Country Cottage restaurant in Locust Grove for injuries they endured from the largest recorded outbreak of E. coli O111.

Pryor’s Blevins Law Firm and Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm that represents victims of foodborne illness throughout the nation filed the suit on behalf of the families.

“Many of us regularly entrust restaurants with our health and safety,” said the families’ attorney, William Marler. “There are stringent rules and regulations that restaurants must follow, because any deviation from those rules can cause illnesses. Sadly, this outbreak shows how very wrong things can go, and how much suffering can result.”

The August 2008 outbreak at the Country Cottage Restaurant in Locust Grove, OK sickened 341 people, hospitalized 70, and caused the death of one man. Investigators quickly pinpointed the restaurant as the source of infection, but were unable to determine the specific vehicle.

E. coli often infects people who consume food or beverages contaminated by animal (especially cattle) manure. E. coli outbreaks have been tied to meat, produce, unpasteurized milk, cheese, and cider, sprouts, juice, and even water. The lawsuit cites the restaurant’s use of water from an unpermitted, on-site well just before the outbreak–in violation of Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulations–as a basis for punitive damages.

“These fourteen people collectively spent 250 days in the hospital, 84 of them on dialysis for kidney failure,” continued Marler. “Their medical bills are almost two million dollars, not to mention ongoing medical care that many will continue to need. Our job is to make sure that they don’t struggle to carry that immense burden by themselves.”

The lawsuit charges Country Cottage and its owners were negligent in that they “designed, manufactured, distributed, and sold food and drink products that were contaminated with E. coli O111: NM, a potentially deadly pathogen.”

The state health department found “there was ongoing foodborne transmission of E. coli O111: NM to County Cottage restaurant patrons between Aug. 15 and Aug. 24, 2008.”

The Country Cottage is a popular home-style cooking restaurant located about 50 miles east of Tulsa. It is owned by Kenneth Dale Moore, Sr. and Linda Joyce Moore; Kenneth Dale Moore, Jr. and Cynthia R. Moore; and Kelly and (John Doe) Moore. All are being sued in their business, individual, and marital community capacities.

The Moore family could not be reached for comment.

The twelve families are from Mayes, Delaware, Tulsa, Rogers, Cherokee, and Lonoke counties of Oklahoma.