Dole Fresh Vegetables faces first lawsuit from victims of Listeria outbreak originating from Springfield, Ohio processing plant.
Ohio resident Constance Georgostathis has filed suit against Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc., after a salad mix tainted with Listeria placed her mother, Kiki Christofield, in a coma. Ms. Georgostathis is seeking damages caused by her mother’s subsequent illness and current condition. The plaintiff is represented by food safety advocate William D. Marler, managing attorney at Marler Clark LLP, the Food Safety Law Firm, based in Seattle. The case number is 1:16-cv-00360-TSB.
In late January, 2016, Ms. Georgostathis bought a Dole salad mix from a Kroger in Ohio. Days later, her mother, Kiki Christofield, ate some of the salad from the package. The product was later found to be contaminated with the same strain of Listeria found in the recent Listeria outbreak linked to Dole salad products from the Springfield, Ohio processing plant.
On January 23, Kiki Christofield began to feel unwell, and by the 26th of January, she was experiencing extreme head and neck pain, confusion and an altered mental state. The next morning, Mrs. Christofield was taken by ambulance to Bethesda North Hospital in the Cincinnati area. She was treated with morphine for the pain, but discharged soon after.
Her condition worsened over the next several days. On January 31st she was again taken to Bethesda North Hospital. Before the day ended, Kiki Christofield was in a coma, from which she has yet to awaken. She remains hospitalized at Bethesda North Hospital.
The Listeria outbreak from Dole’s Springfield, Ohio plant has been identified as starting July 5, 2015. On January 27, 2016, Dole issued a voluntary recall of all salad mixes produced at the Springfield plant. These salad mixes are packaged in bags and clamshell plastic containers and can be identified by the letter “A” at the beginning of the manufacturer’s code on the package.
Thus far, 18 people in the United States and 11 in Canada have been identified as contracting Listeria from this outbreak, including one pregnant woman in Michigan. Every patient identified has been hospitalized, and 4 have died. 72% of US cases and 55% of Canadian cases are female. Every age group has been affected: in the United States, victims range in age from 3 to 83 years old.
This outbreak marks the first Dole recall with illnesses associated since the 2006 E.coli outbreak traced back to Dole spinach. In the 2006 outbreak, the FDA confirmed over 200 illnesses, over 100 hospitalizations, and at least 3 deaths. “People tend to think of fresh foods as safe from foodborne pathogens,” said Bill Marler, attorney for the plaintiff and top food safety attorney. “Listeria is typically a pathogen found in processing establishments rather than coming from growing fields. We are interested to know what environmental testing at Dole’s Springfield facility in the months preceding this outbreak showed.”
Listeria causes an estimated 2,600 cases per year of the severe invasive illness called listeriosis. Unlike other pathogens, Listeria can multiply at refrigerator temperatures, which makes produce an ideal host for its spread and transference. Other foods commonly associated with Listeria outbreaks are improperly pasteurized dairy products, deli meats, and ready-to-eat, prepackaged foods. Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and the immunocompromised are much more likely to become seriously ill when exposed to Listeria. Pregnant women are 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis; 22% of Listeria infections while pregnant result in stillbirth or neonatal death. Persons with AIDS are 300 times more likely to be diagnosed with listeriosis.
Symptoms of Listeria infection are sudden development of chills, severe headache, vomiting, and other flu-like symptoms. Most healthy adults and children who contract Listeria infection only experience mild to moderate symptoms. Severe complications include blood infection, meningitis, and death. To learn more about Listeria, please visit http://www.about-listeria.com.
Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of food-borne illness outbreaks. The lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation, and has litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to cheese, cantaloupe, pasteurized milk, and other food products.