In what is believed to be the first lawsuit arising from the ongoing nationwide Costco chicken salad E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, lawyers Brendan Flaherty and Ryan Osterholm have filed a case on behalf of a woman sickened in the outbreak. The suit is against Taylor Fresh Foods, Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corporation. She ate “Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad” that was made at Costco stores with Taylor Farms celery and onion mix. The suit was filed in the Butte division of U.S. District Court along with associates at the Bozeman law firm Beck & Amsden.
Costco identified Taylor Farms of California as the supplier of the onion and celery mix used in that salad. The Montana Department of Health tested a “Celery and Onion Diced Blend” product that was produced and distributed by Taylor Farms, used in the Costco chicken salad nationwide. It was positive for E. coli O157:H7; testing is still pending to determine if that bacteria is the outbreak strain. Taylor Farms recalled many products containing celery as a result of those tests on November 26, 2015.
The plaintiff purchased the salad in question from the Costco Wholesale store in Bozeman, Montana on October 18, 2015 and on several other occasions over the next week. On November 2, 2015, the plaintiff developed the symptoms of an E. coli O157:H7 infection, including bloody diarrhea. After seeking treatment from her doctor, testing revealed that she had an E. coli O157:H7 infection.
This illness, according to the complaint, is part of a multistate E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to Costco chicken salads. As of November 23, 2015, 19 people in 7 states have been infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7.
Patients sickened in this outbreak so far live in California (1), Colorado (4), Missouri (1), Montana (6), Utah (5), Virginia (1), and Washington state (1). Illness onset dates ranged from October 6, 2015 to November 3, 2015. Any illnesses that occurred after November 10, 2015 may not yet be reported because it takes time for a diagnosis and lab results and for reporting to public health officials.
Both Costco and Taylor Farms are liable in this case because they sold food contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria. All manufacturers, distributors, processors, and retailers have a legal duty to sell products that are safe to eat.
This outbreak will most likely grow simply because of the large number of recalled products and the huge distribution area. The products made by Taylor Farms were sold across the country. And the Costco chicken salad was sold across the country as well.
The symptoms of an E. coli O157:H7 infection include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea that may be bloody and/or watery, a mild fever, and nausea and vomiting. Accurate diagnosis of this illness is crucial, since administering antibiotics can increase the risk that an E. coli infection develops into hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication. In fact, two people in this outbreak have developed HUS.
The symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome include pale skin, lethargy, little or no urine output, easy bruising, bleeding from the nose and mouth, and a skin rash. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor immediately because HUS causes kidney failure, seizures, and other serious medical problems.