The first E. coli O157:H7 claim against National Steak and Poultry (NSP), an Oklahoma meat manufacturing facility, was filed yesterday in the Third Judicial District Court of Salt Lake City. Marler Clark, the Seattle-based foodborne illness law firm, and Dustin Lance of The Lance Firm, P.C and Jared Faerber of The Faerber Law Firm, filed the lawsuit on behalf of a 14-year-old teen, “CD”. 

The claim alleges that NSP was negligent and failed to use reasonable care in the distribution of its meat products. The suit also names “John Doe” companies, or companies that have yet to be identified, as parties that may be involved in distributing the tainted meat products.

In December 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) became aware of a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses linked to the product in six states. Following the FSIS discovery, NSP recalled approximately 248,000 pounds of beef products, citing potential E. coli O157:H7 contamination as the cause. Most of the recalled meat was distributed to restaurants.

Unfortunately, the recall did little to thwart the spread of the outbreak. FSIS ultimately connected 21 victims in 16 states to the NSP E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, most of whom became ill between mid October and late November. Nine were hospitalized, and one person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening complication of E. coli infection.

According to the lawsuit, CD began to experience E. coli-like symptoms on or about November 2, 2009. The symptoms, which came hard and fast, included severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea that soon turned bloody.

His symptoms continued to worsen, prompting his parents to rush CD to the emergency room at Columbia Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful, Utah. The ER doctors initially diagnosed him with gastrointestinal bleeding, but due to the severity of his symptoms, they advised CD’s parents to take him to Primary Children’s Medical Center.

CD remained at Primary Children’s in Salt Lake City from November 2 through November 4, 2009, where he was diagnosed with infectious colitis. A stool specimen CD submitted during his hospitalization soon tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.

CD’s parents learned from officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Davis Country Health Department that the strain of E. coli O157:H7 CD was infected with matched the outbreak strain linked to recalled NSP beef products.