On December 22, 2014, we filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Safeway Inc, in the Superior Court of Santa Cruz on behalf of James Raymond Frey, 87, and the estate of his deceased wife, Shirlee Jean Frey, 81, who died tragically on December 2, 2014 after consuming a Listeria-tainted caramel apple purchased at the Safeway in Felton, California. The case number is CISCV180721. The complaint was amended on December 29, 2014 to add in two additional parties – Happy Apple and Bidart Brothers.
The events leading up to Mrs. Frey’s death began just before Halloween 2014, when she went to the Safeway store in Felton, California, and purchased, among other things, a commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apple. Shortly after consuming the caramel apple later in the week, Mrs. Frey suddenly began to feel ill.
On November 6, due to weakness and instability related to her illness, Mrs. Frey fell and hit her head. She was rushed to the emergency room, where the decision was made to airlift Mrs. Frey to Stanford Hospital for surgery on what was thought to be a brain-bleed. On November 14th, after the surgery, Mrs. Frey was deemed well enough to be discharged and admitted for rehabilitative care. She appeared to be improving over the next ten days, however, her condition soon started to deteriorate.
On Thanksgiving Day, Mrs. Frey could not be awakened and was immediately readmitted to care at Stanford Hospital. On December 2, the doctors at Stanford Hospital informed the family that Mrs. Frey was suffering from a listeria infection—listeriosis (later confirmed by health department investigators). Already shocked and devastated, the family was informed later that day that Mrs. Frey had died as a result of the infection.
As of January 8, 2015 the CDC reports, a total of 32 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes had been reported from 11 states: Arizona (4), California (2), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), Nevada (1), New Mexico (6), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3).
- Thirty-one ill people have been hospitalized, and six deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least three of these deaths.
- Ten illnesses were pregnancy-related (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant), with one illness resulting in a fetal loss.
- Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) were among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years.
- To date, 23 (88%) of the 26 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified 2 cases of listeriosis in Canada with the same pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns as seen in the U.S. outbreak.
On January 6, 2015, Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, California voluntarily recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples because environmental testing revealed contamination with Listeria monocytogenes at the firm’s apple-packing facility. The recall includes all Granny Smith and Gala apples shipped from its Shafter, California packing facility in 2014. CDC recommends that consumers not eat any of the recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples produced by Bidart Bros. and that retailers not sell or serve them. To date, three firms that produce caramel apples have issued voluntary recalls after receiving notice from Bidart Bros. that there may be a connection between Bidart Bros. apples and this listeriosis outbreak. On December 24, 2014, Happy Apple Company of Washington, Missouri, voluntarily recalled Happy Apples brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 25 and November 23, 2014. On December 31, 2014, Happy Apple Company expanded the recall to include Kroger brand caramel apples produced by Happy Apple Company with a best use by date between September 15 and November 18, 2014. On December 27, 2014, California Snack Foods voluntarily recalled Karm’l Dapple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between August 15 and November 28, 2014. On December 29, 2014, Merb’s Candies of St. Louis, Missouri issued a voluntary recall of Merb’s Candies Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples that would have been available from September 8 through November 25, 2014.