The nation’s first lawsuit filed in the Blue Bell ice cream Listeria outbreak has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin, Texas. The case centers on the near-fatal illness in Houston suffered by the associate executive director of a 462-apartment continuing care retirement community who regularly ate the type of Blue Bell ice cream that state and federal authorities have linked to the outbreak.
D. Philip Shockley, 32, sued Blue Bell Creameries USA Inc. on May 19. The ice cream lawsuit alleges that Shockley’s devastating listeriosis infection was caused by tainted products that Blue Bell made in facilities infested with the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes.
Judge Yeakel was appointed to the federal bench in 2003 by President George W. Bush after confirmation by the United States Senate. He is a former Marine who served on the Texas Court of Appeals and was chief judge of the appellate court’s Third District. He received his law degree in 1969 from the University of Texas and also has a Masters of Law from the University of Virginia.
Shockley’s case has attracted media coverage from around the country due to the popularity of the Blue Bell brand and the extreme nature of his illness and narrow escape from death. The suit also incorporates a description of the full range of problems inside Blue Bell’s manufacturing facilities as detailed by teams of FDA inspectors after disease trackers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked Blue Bell ice cream to a five-year outbreak that killed three people in Kansas and sickened others in Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma. All case patients were hospitalized.
The Listeria lawsuit details how the bacteria infected Mr. Shockley’s blood and migrated to his brain where it caused extensive damage, leaving him unconscious and near death inside his Houston apartment. C0-workers found him after he failed to show up in his office and rushed him to the hospital by ambulance.
Medical reports show that Mr. Shockley remained unconscious for six days and then remained in critical care for weeks. Now, even after well over a year of intensive neurological treatment, therapy and rehabilitation, he continues to suffer from, among other injuries, posterior fossa syndrome (“PFS”), a severe neurological syndrome caused by damage to the brainstem and cerebellum. It is characterized by cognitive, emotional, behavioral, motor, language and speech related dysfunction.