A lawsuit was filed yesterday in King County Superior Court, Washington, on behalf of Kelly Cobb and her husband Matthew.  Kelly was a victim of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to contaminated romaine lettuce in May of 2008.   

Defendants named in the lawsuit include Church Brothers LLC, Premium

Fresh Farms, LLC, True Leaf Farms, LLC, Andrew Smith Marketing

Corporation, Paul’s Pak, Inc. and three unnamed manufacturers.  The Cobbs are represented by Seattle-based Marler Clark

In May 2008, Kelly Cobb lived in Oceanside, California, while her husband Matt, a Marine, was serving in Iraq.  Kelly’s father was deployed to Iraq as well, and early in the month Kelly took her son and daughter to Washington State for an extended visit with her mother and other relatives.

During her visit to Washington, Kelly and her mother attended a dinner function at the La Quinta Inn in Tacoma on May 10.  At the function, Kelly ate romaine lettuce that was later determined to be the source of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that sickened at least nine other residents of Pierce and Thurston Counties.  

Kelly became ill with symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection, including nausea, abdominal cramps, and bloody diarrhea on May 15, 2008–the day she and her children were planning to drive back home to California.  

The next day, she was seen at the emergency room of Good Samaritan Hospital in Tacoma, where she received intravenous fluids for dehydration and pain medication.  A stool sample was collected for testing and she was discharged with a prescription for antibiotics and pain medication.  

Kelly’s symptoms continued and she returned to the Good Samaritan Hospital emergency room on May 17.  She was admitted for treatment and remained hospitalized at Good Samaritan until May 20, when she was discharged home to recover.  That same day, Kelly’s stool sample results returned positive for E. coli O157:H7 and public health agencies began an investigation into the source of her illness.

On May 21, Kelly’s symptoms returned.  Family members took her back to the hospital on May 22, and she was again admitted to Good Samaritan. Tests showed signs that Kelly’s kidneys were beginning to lose filter function and that she appeared to be developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a dangerous complication of E. coli O157:H7 infection.  Kelly was told her kidney function was only 50 percent of normal.

Already worried about her husband and father being in harm’s way in the Middle East, Kelly now had to inform them that she, too, faced a potentially life-threatening ordeal.  The message to her husband had to be sent via the Red Cross; her father was told during one of his phone calls home.

Kelly began plasmapheresis sessions on May 23.  By May 25, her kidney function began to improve and she was discharged on May 30, having received 81 units of fresh, frozen plasma and four units of packed red blood cells over the previous seven days.  

Kelly now has to get blood drawn regularly  to monitor her kidney function.  She has been told that if she becomes pregnant, she should see a physician immediately because of the potential health effects from her HUS illness.  She now suffers from chronic heartburn as well. 

Kelly’s medical bills to date exceed $125,000.