August 17, 2019

Lawyer Explains: Why Is a Class Action Lawsuit Not the Best Choice For Romaine E. coli O157:H7 HUS Patients?

There are potentially many lawsuits that will be filed in the large E. coli O57:H7 HUS outbreak that is linked to romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. At least 121 people are sick in that outbreak. Many families may be thinking about a class action lawsuit if and when a grower, distributor, retailer, or restaurant is named by the government. But is a class action lawsuit really the best choice for you, whether you have been sickened with E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Brucella, Campylobacter, or Salmonella bacteria?

Romaine lettuce E. coli O157 HUS class action lawsuit

As of May 2, 2018, fifty-two people have been hospitalized in this outbreak because they are so sick. Fourteen patients have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of complication that can cause kidney failure. And one person in California has died. The devastation caused by the contaminated lettuce is overwhelming. Hospital bills pile up as the patients struggle to recover.

Ryan Osterholm

You can contact attorney Ryan Osterholm at 1-888-377-8900.

Food Poisoning Bulletin spoke to Ryan Osterholm, an attorney with Pritzker Hageman, the sponsor of this site and asked him why a class action lawsuit is usually not appropriate for food poisoning patients. He said, “Each case is unique.  Each sick person suffered tremendously and each case warrants individual attention by a food safety lawyer.  This is not a one size fits all litigation, so a class action lawsuit would not be appropriate to seek justice for the terribly injured people in this outbreak.”

We asked if it was true that clients generally get smaller judgments in a class action lawsuit. Ryan answered, “I would not say that is universally true.  It is just that each person generally gets the same amount. So it doesn’t work with personal injuries such as this.  They are too different.”

The injuries suffered by people infected with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) bacteria can vary tremendously. Someone may just have bloody diarrhea for a few days. Others may get sick enough to visit their doctor, and may not feel better for weeks. And some may suffer from dehydration and become weak enough they need to be hospitalized. Some patients can develop long term health complications from this infection, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease.

The patients who are the sickest in this outbreak have hemolytic uremic syndrome, also known as HUS. That means the Shiga toxins the E. coli bacteria produce have gotten into the bloodstream and have started to destroy red blood cells. Those dead cells travel to different organs in the body and cause serious damage, especially to the kidneys. Some HUS patients may suffer strokes. Others may go into kidney failure and need dialysis and an eventual kidney transplant. To make matters worse, the patients that are most likely to develop HUS are children under the age of 5.

Every patient sickened with E. coli O157:H7 is going to need a different amount of medical care. Some may have bills that total hundreds of thousands of dollars. Other bacteria, such as Listeria monocytogenes or Salmonella, can also cause devastating and expensive illnesses.

Meanwhile, if you or anyone in your family has been experiencing the symptoms of an E. coli infection or HUS, especially if you have eaten romaine lettuce in the last 10 days, see your doctor. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, painful abdominal cramps, and for HUS, little urine output, lethargy, and pallor. This is a dangerous infection and medical care is required in most cases.

Bad Bug Law Team | Pritzker Law Firm

If you or a loved one have been sickened with an E. coli O157:H7 infection or HUS, please contact our experienced attorneys for help at 1-888-377-8900.

Pritzker Hageman law firm helps and represents those who have been sickened by contaminated food such as produce and leafy greens. We get justice, answers, and compensation for patients in our work. Our lawyers represent families of children and adult patients who have been sickened with bacterial infections in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against growers, retailers, grocery stores, food processors, restaurants, and others. In 2016, attorney Fred Pritzker and his Bad Bug team won $7.5 million for a young client whose kidneys failed because of hemolytic uremic syndrome after he contracted an E. coli O157:H7 infection.


  1. Constance says

    Is “Proteus Mirabilis” bacterial infection like E. coli O157 ? Or can one get Proteus Mirabilis from eating Romain Lettuce?
    Thank you.

    • Linda Larsen says

      Both are gram negative bacteria, but they are different bacteria. The romaine lettuce in question is only contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.

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