A Missouri woman who spent 11 days in Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur with kidney failure, a blood clot in the lung, and atrial fibrillation from being infected with E. coli O157:H7 is suing St. Louis-based Schnucks Markets.

On Oct. 12, 19, and 20, Mary Kozlowski says she dined at the Des Peres Schnucks on Manchester Road in St. Louis County — each time consuming romaine lettuce. By Oct. 21, she was experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms consistent with an E. coli infection.

She was admitted to Mercy Hospital on Oct. 27 and, according to the lawsuit, her condition continued to deteriorate. She developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of E. coli infections that caused her kidneys to fail.

The lawsuit claims permanent damage to the kidneys caused the woman to gain 30 pounds while at Mercy. She was released from the hospital on Nov. 7, but continues to be treated for ongoing symptoms, including the permanent kidney damage.

Schnucks, with 90 outlets in the Midwest, says it does not comment on pending litigation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week that the multistate E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, centered in St. Louis, was most likely caused by one shipment of romaine lettuce from a California grower and served in grocery chain salad bars.

Schnucks declined to name its supplier saying CDC hadn’t found any food safety violations or positive test results in romaine samples. The CDC also did not identify the California grower.

The outbreak sickened 60 people in 10 states. Most of the cases — 37 in Missouri and nine across the Missouri River in Illinois, were clearly centered on the St. Louis metro area.

The epidemiological report found that nine Schnucks salad bars were the most common denominator for the illnesses. However, none of the samples collected from salad bar items, including romaine lettuce, tested positive for E. coli. 

The Kozlowski lawsuit against Schnucks was filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court by the Seattle food safety law firm Marler Clark, and the St. Louis law firm Aleshire Robb & Sivils.

“My client has endured a great deal of terror, pain, and suffering—all because she ate a salad,” said Kozlowski’s attorney William Marler, who is also publisher of Food Safety News.  “When you purchase food, you believe it may do a number of things – -provide nourishment, taste good, or even just fill you up.  What you don’t intend is for that food to endanger your life.”