A second lawsuit has been filed in a multistate E. coli outbreak linked to Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches. The lawsuit is on behalf of a Polk County, Iowa woman who was hospitalized because of her E. coli illness.

According to the complaint filed in Polk County District Court, 23-year-old Mollie Horton ate a sandwich from a Jimmy John’s party platter at a family gathering on Dec. 23, 2011.

The sandwich contained sprouts, but Horton removed them before eating.  By December 26, she began experiencing severe gastrointestinal symptoms which persisted until Jann. 5, 2012, when they dramatically worsened and she was rushed to the emergency room where she was treated for pain and severe dehydration.  She was then admitted to the hospital where she stayed through January 8.

After discharge, her symptoms continued for several weeks.  The complaint alleges that testing showed that Horton’s illness was the result of a genetically identical strain of E. coli O26 linked to the Jimmy John’s sprout outbreak. 

The outbreak was announced on Feb. 15, 2012 by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which said 12 people were sickened, and two hospitalized, by infections  linked to raw clover sprouts used as sandwich toppings at Jimmy John’s restaurants in Iowa (5 ilnesses), Missouri (3 illnesses), Kansas (2 illnesses), Arkansas (1 illnesses), and Wisconsin (1 illnesses).    

Horton’s lawsuit further alleges that raw sprouts served at Jimmy John’s have been responsible for four previous E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks that have sickened hundreds of people in the past four years. Though the company had stood by its use of sprouts in the past, this latest outbreak has prompted Jimmy John’s to permanently end the use of the product.


“On one hand, I’m happy that Jimmy John’s finally pulled sprouts from their menu,” said Horton’s attorney William Marler.  “On the other hand, it is disappointing that this wasn’t done earlier, because doing so could have prevented this outbreak.”

Considered a food with higher than average food safety risks, sprouts have been linked to at least 40 foodborne illness outbreaks since 1990.  Last year, Marler and his firm donated $10,000 to the International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA) to assist in the development of a safer method for the production of sprouts.  Marler has recently challenged Jimmy John’s to do the same.

Marler is publisher of Food Safety News