Simon & Luke Files First Salmonella Wrongful Death Claim Against Wright County Egg
The nation’s first wrongful death lawsuit, linked to the Wright County Egg Salmonella outbreak, was filed Friday in Alameda County, California on behalf of a California resident Mate Marlais.
(PRWEB) June 05, 2012
The Law Firm of Simon & Luke has Filed the Nation’s First Salmonella Wrongful Death Claim Against Wright County Egg in the Superior Court of the State of California, Alameda County Case No. RG12632871.
The Houston-based food safety law firm of Simon & Luke has filed the first wrongful death lawsuit against Wright County Egg linked to the 2010 Salmonella Enteritidis egg outbreak that sickened over 2000 people nationwide. The outbreak led Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa to ultimately recall over 380 million shell eggs, which were distributed throughout the United States. The case, according to the Law Offices of Simon & Luke and the Gomez Law Firm, was filed on behalf of a California resident in Alameda, County.
According o the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the company announced the recall only after health officials identified Wright County Egg as the source of the Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak that was ultimately responsible for at least 2000 illnesses, including at least 1 death. (http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/enteritidis/).
Contaminated Wright County Eggs Allegedly Cause Salmonella Enteritidis Death
Simon & Luke, along with co-counsel The Gomez Law Firm, filed the Salmonella lawsuit in Alameda County, California on behalf of resident David Marlais, individually and as a representative for the estate of his father, Mate Marlais. The Complaint for Damages and Request for Jury Trial, No. RG12632871, was filed and stamped on Friday, June 1, 2012. According to court documents, Mate Marlais was a retired machinist who died after eating Salmonella-contaminated Wright County Eggs at a local restaurant. A file stamped copy of the lawsuit, and a photo of David and Mate Marlais before Mate’s death, are available upon request from Simon & Luke LLP.
According to the filed Complaint, a few days after Mate ate the contaminated eggs, he was found at home lying in his own diarrhea. He was rushed by ambulance to Eden Hospital, where he was admitted in a state of shock caused by intestinal salmonellosis. A stool sample, collected after Mate’s admission to the hospital, confirmed the presence of Salmonella in his system. The facts of the case are set forth in the Original Complaint, filed June 1, 2012, in the Superior Court of the State of California, Alameda County.
According to Court papers, tests confirmed the presence of rhabdomyelosis, or skeletal muscle destruction. The Complaint alleges the following: The destruction was secondary to the profound metabolic acidosis associated with his systemic Salmonella infection. On the second day of his hospital stay, Mate suffered an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) and respiratory failure. As a result, he was placed on ventilator support and transferred to Eden Hospital’s Critical Care Unit. Once there, his condition continued to deteriorate, and Mate fell into a coma. Mate thereafter remained on ventilator support until all of his family could be gathered at his bedside. He was then taken off life support, and died shortly thereafter on the afternoon of June 13, 2010, only four days after being admitted to the hospital.
According to Court documents, following Mate’s death, the California Department of Public Health Department determined that stool cultures taken during Mate’s hospital stay had tested positive for the exact genetic strain of Salmonella Enteritidis found in eggs from Wright County Egg.
Filth and Squalor at Wright County Egg Facilities
According to court documents filed in this case:
“On August 16, 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it had observed an approximately four-fold nationwide increase in reports of human illnesses caused by Salmonella Enteritidis during late June and early July 2010. The report linked consumption of eggs manufactured by WCE to the increase in the number of illnesses. Three days prior, WCE issued a recall of approximately 228,000,000 shell eggs that it had manufactured and distributed in recent months. WCE had distributed the recalled eggs to food wholesalers, distribution centers, and foodservice companies in California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. The companies to which WCE had distributed the contaminated eggs further distributed and sold the Salmonella¬-laden eggs across the United States. On August 16, 2010, the same day as the CDC’s announcement, WCE expanded the recall to include approximately 380,000,000 eggs. In the days following WCE’s recalls, numerous state health departments, including the California Department of Public Health, announced illnesses amongst state residents linked to eggs and egg products sold by WCE. The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Department of Health and Human Services began an investigation into WCE’s egg manufacturing facilities in Galt, Iowa, including on-site inspections at its various eggs laying farms/plants between August 12 and August 30, 2010. The FDA issued observations from its on-site inspection in the form of an FDA 483 Report, which is issued by inspectors only when they observe significant objectionable conditions that, in the FDA investigator’s judgment, indicate that an FDA-regulated product is in violation of the FDA’s requirements, such as when food is being produced, prepared, packed, or held under conditions whereby it may be contaminated with filth or may be rendered injurious to health.”
The Court documents filed on Friday, June 1, 2012, also included the findings of an FDA report dated 8/12-8/30, 2010, stating: “The FDA’s 483 Inspectional Observations from its on-site inspections were issued to Defendant’s Chief Operating Officer, Peter A. DeCoster, on August 30, 2010, and include the following findings:
a. Chicken manure in the pits below the egg laying operations stood approximately 4 to 8 feet high, and the outside access doors to the manure pits had been pushed out by the weight of the manure. This left the hen houses open to wildlife or domesticated animals, including rodents. These conditions were observed at the following locations: Layer 1 – House 1; Layer 3 – Houses 2, 7, 17, and 18;
b. Un-baited, unsealed holes appearing to be rodent burrows along the second floor baseboards were observed inside Layer 1 – Houses 1-9 and 11-13; Layer 2 – Houses 7 and 11: Layer 3 – Houses 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6; Layer 4- House 3;
c. Dark liquid, apparently manure, was seeping through the concrete foundation to the outside of the laying houses at the following locations: Layer 1- Houses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, and 14; and Layer 3 – Houses 1, 8, 13, and 17;
d. Standing water approximately 3 inches deep was observed at the southeast corner of the manure pit located inside Layer 1 – House 1 – House 13;
e. Escaped chickens were observed using the 8-feet tall manure heaps to access the egg-laying area, and were in contact with egg-laying birds at Layer 3 – Houses 9 and 16;
f. The house entrance door used to access both House 11 and 12 was blocked with excessive amounts of manure in the manure pits;
g. There were between 2 to 5 live mice observed inside the egg laying Houses 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 14;
h. Live and dead flies too numerous to count. The live flies were on and around egg belts, feed, shell eggs, and walkways in the different sections of each laying area. Flies in these numbers were observed in the following locations: Layer 1 – Houses 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, and 12; Layer 2 – Houses 7 and 11; Layer 3 – Houses 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 15, 16, 17, and 18;
i. Live and dead maggots too numerous to count were observed on the manure pit floor located in Layer 2 – House 7;
j. Failure to document washing and disinfecting of the dead hen truck and manure equipment prior to moving from farm to farm;
k. Failure to maintain records documenting the washing and disinfection of the trailers used for the movement of pullets to laying houses;
l. Birds observed roosting and flying, chicks heard chirping in the storage and milking facilities.
m. Nesting material observed in the feed mill closed mixing system, ingredient storage and truck filling areas;
n. Pigeons entering and leaving outdoor whole kernel corn grain bins 4 and 6, which were observed to have the topside doors/lids open to the environment. Birds were also observed sitting/flying around and over the openings;
o. Samples collected during the course of this inspection and tested by an FDA laboratory revealed the following positive analytical results for Salmonella Enteritidis:
1. On 8/13/2010, an environmental sample was collected from Layer 2, house 7 manure swab from row 1 – left side;
2. On 8/16/201, an environmental sample was collected from Layer 2, house 11 at manure scraper blade from row 3 – right side;
3. On 8/13/2010, an environmental sample was collected from Layer 4, house 3 at walkway 1 – right side and walkway 3 – right side;
4. On 8/14/2010, a sample of meat and bone meal was collected from ingredient bin 7 located at the feed mill;
5. On 8/17/2010, a sample of finished feed “Developer” pullet feed was collected from the feed mill; and
6. On 8/16/2010, an environmental sample was collected from the roof level covered ingredient bin chute 8; Second Floor ingredient bin cover 19 (ingredient bin 19 holds ground corn) located at the feed mill.”
The entire FDA report can also be found at:
According to the CDC’s Final Update, dated December 2, 2010, “FDA collected nearly 600 samples from Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa during this investigation. Samples underwent subtyping testing. FDA’s testing of 11 environmental samples identified Salmonella with PFGE patterns indistinguishable from the outbreak strain. Samples were collected from manure, as well as traffic areas such as walkways, equipment, other surfaces in and around the farm, and from the feed mill at Wright County Egg in Iowa. The feed was provided to pullets (young female chickens or hens) raised at Wright County Egg facilities in Iowa. Pullets were distributed to all premises at Wright County Egg in Iowa and Hillandale Farms in Iowa. A positive sample was also collected from egg water wash in a packing facility at Hillandale Farms of Iowa. These findings indicate that Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa were the likely sources of the contaminated shell eggs. FDA did not find that this feed was distributed to any companies other than Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa.” (http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/enteritidis/).
Congressional Investigation Reveals Wright County Egg Knew of Positive Salmonella Test Results Before Outbreak
The court documents also detail Congressional hearings, alleging that such are further proof of Wright County Eggs’ negligent conduct in this outbreak: “Due to [FDA and CDC] findings, both WCE’s owner and chief operating officer were called to testify before a Congressional Subcommittee to explain how such conditions could occur. In the course of its investigation, the Committee on Energy and Commerce obtained records showing that WCE’s Iowa facilities tested positive for Salmonella contamination prior to the outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis caused by consumption of its products. The Committee obtained records of environmental sample reports from WCE’s facility in Galt, Iowa from between 2008 and 2010. Those records showed that WCE received 426 positive results for Salmonella, including 73 samples that were potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis.”
According the Original Complaint: “ At least ten tests conducted between August 2009 and July 2010 yielded one or more positive result for Salmonella:
a. August 4, 2009: at least one positive result for Salmonella;
b. August 12, 2009: 9 positive results for Salmonella; including 7 results potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis;
c. August 12, 2009: 11 positive results for Salmonella; including 1 result potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis;
d. August 12, 2009: 7 positive results for Salmonella; including 1 results potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis;
e. August 20, 2009: 18 positive results for Salmonella; including 4 results potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis;
f. August 25, 2009: 34 positive results for Salmonella; including 7 results potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis;
g. September 15, 2009: 9 positive results for Salmonella; including 7 results potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis;
h. October 29, 2009: at least 7 positive results for Salmonella;
i. October 29, 2009: 23 positive results for Salmonella; including 2 results potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis;
j. May 27, 2010: 66 positive results for Salmonella; and
k. July 26, 2010: 1 positive results for Salmonella Enteritidis.”
The court documents go on to state: “Due to the number of test results showing the presence of Salmonella, including Salmonella Enteritidis, at WCE’s facilities, WCE was on both actual and constructive notice of the continued presence of Salmonella, including Salmonella Enteritidis, on its grounds, in its equipment, and likely in its egg products. However, WCE willfully and wantonly refused to take corrective action.”
The Court documents also allege that WCE has a long history of wanton and willful disregard for the rights and safety of those who purchase and consume its egg products. The Original Complaint alleges, specifically, that: “Beginning in 1982, egg production facilities owned and operated by Austin J. DeCoster, owner of Wright County Egg, have been repeatedly linked to outbreaks of Salmonella illnesses, including Salmonella Enteritidis outbreaks. According to a report in the New York Times, these outbreaks include:
a. a 1982 outbreak in which approximately 36 people were sickened, and one person died as a result of Salmonella Enteritidis traced to an egg production facility owned and operated by Mr. DeCoster;
b. a simultaneous outbreak in Massachusetts that sickened 400 was suspected to be tied to consumption of eggs from the same DeCoster-owned facility;
c. an outbreak that killed 9 and sickened roughly 500 in New York City during 1987 was linked to eggs produced by farms owned and operated by Mr. DeCoster; once again, the bacteria involved was Salmonella Enteritidis; and
d. a 1992 outbreak of Salmonella in Connecticut linked to eggs from Mr. DeCoster’s Maryland farm
As a result, numerous state and local regulatory agencies—including New York and Maryland—have either banned, quarantined or otherwise limited the sale of eggs from egg production facilities operated by Mr. DeCoster.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/business/22eggs.html?pagewanted=all)
According to court documents , “Wright County Egg hired Charles Hofacre, an avian medicine expert at the University of Georgia, to develop a Salmonella prevention plan for the company prior to the outbreak. Despite his efforts, however, the Salmonella contamination was so egregious that three months before the recall Dr. Hofacre sent an e-mail to company officials, warning them about the severity of the problem.” According to the Complaint, in the e-mail, “Dr. Hofacre alerted the company about the need to develop a strategy to control the prevalence of Salmonella Enteritidis, which was ultimately responsible for sickening over 2000 people during the course of the outbreak: ‘We have to get this level of SE [Salmonella Enteritidis] knocked down!’”
About Simon & Luke
Simon & Luke’s groundbreaking work on behalf of victims in several recent national food borne illness outbreaks (Peter Pan peanut butter, Castleberry’s chili, Nestle cookie dough, Peanut Corporation of America Peanut products, JBS Swift beef, Daniele salami, Subway sandwiches, Wright County Egg eggs, Agromod papayas, and Moon Marine sushi, to name a few) have been featured on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX and virtually all other major television networks and in print media. The firm has represented over 5000 victims of food-borne outbreaks in the past five years alone, and has collected over $500,000,000 for its clients. The firm regularly publishes articles about food safety and litigation at http://www.myfoodpoisoninglawyer.com, which are read by viewers in over 160 countries.
For media inquiries or more information on this outbreak and ongoing litigation, please contact Ron Simon directly at (713) 819-8116 or ron(at)simonluke.com.
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