E. coli Spinach Lawsuit Settled

Earlier this month, we wrote that a lawsuit involving <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/e_coli_escherichia_coli">E. coli-tainted Dole baby spinach was set to start. Chelsey Macey, 26, said she ate the spinach over four years ago and that it allegedly led to a disabling case of post-infectious irritable bowl syndrome (IBS). Now, says the Salt Lake Tribune (SL Trib), Macey has settled the lawsuit with the three companies she blamed for her illness.

Macey’s attorneys argued that she is entitled to over $10 million in medical expenses, her future care, future lost pay, and suffering said the Deseret News and the SL Trib. Macey, and her husband Tony, parents of three, filed the federal lawsuit in April 2008 against spinach grower, Mission Organics; packager, Natural Selection Foods; and distributor, Dole Food Company.

We previously wrote that the three defendants accepted responsibility for the tainted spinach, agreeing to pay some, but not all, damages. The three agreed that the dangerous E. coli infection Macy underwent was a result of the spinach contamination, but none believed that her disabilities are permanent, explained Deseret News, and that it was “anxiety and depression” that led to her IBS.

Defendants were willing to pay for prior medical fees and treatment, even psychotherapy, that would lead to what they described as a “tolerable” recovery, reported Deseret News. Plaintiff attorneys described a healthy, ambitious, active pre-E. coli Macey who was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with the incurable post-infections IBS, said Deseret News.

Her illness caused terrible abdominal pain and exhaustion, which keeps her from working, continuing with her education, handling her home, and attending church; she also avoids leaving the home for fear of losing bowel control, a problem from which she has suffered since she was poisoned by E. coli, explained Deseret News. Defendants attorneys cited Macey’s prior depression and anxiety and that she also had her third child following the illness as mitigating points; however, there are known, long-term issues associated with food poisoning, E. coli in particular.

Now, defendant attorneys admitted that the tainted spinach caused her E. coli and her injuries.

A recent study suggests that E. coli O157, considered the most virulent strain of the food borne pathogenic disease, could be responsible for increased risks for blood pressure and cardiac problems long after the most apparent effects of the poisoning are gone. Other studies found increased disability, reduced productivity, and increased physician visits and hospitalizations, as well as premature death, paralysis, kidney failure, and life-long seizures or mental disabilities, all initiating long after the infection’s initial symptoms disappear.

We have also long reported that E. coli poisoning can lead to other adverse health effects, some long-term and serious, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which encompasses a group of disorders, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which cause the intestines to become inflamed. IBD can cause abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and bleeding from the intestines. Victims of E. coli infection are also at risk of developing a form of reactive arthritis called Reiter’s Syndrome, which typically affects large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and the lower back.

E. coli victims sometimes require kidney transplants and may have scarred intestines that cause lasting digestive difficulty. Even E. coli patients who supposedly recovered can experience long-term health problems later on. For instance, it is estimated that 10 percent of E. coli sufferers develop a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, in which their kidneys and other organs fail.

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