May 27 1998 – The California company whose apple juice was linked to a massive E. coli outbreak in Washington and other states has agreed to pay more than $12 million to five families whose children were sickened, including three in Seattle.

Neither the company, Odwalla Inc., nor lawyers for the families would disclose the sum, but a source familiar with the case confirmed the company will pay between $12 million and $15 million in what is believed to be the largest settlement of a lawsuit involving food poisoning of fresh foods.

The money will be split among the families, with the bulk going to three children who suffered the most serious effects.

“The amounts of the settlement will be substantial enough to fully compensate the children and their families for what they went through and may encounter in the future,” said William Marler, a Seattle attorney who represents the families.

Pending final court approval, trust funds will be established for future medical or educational needs of Katherine Wright, 4; Brooke Hiatt, 5; and Michael Beverly, 4, all of Seattle; Brian Dimock of Washington, D.C.; and Amanda Berman, 5, of Chicago.

Four of the children suffered the most serious consequence of the bacterial poisoning, a severe blood and kidney disorder called hemolytic uremic syndrome, although the effects were less serious in one case. Doctors say children with this disorder are at risk of permanent kidney damage and other problems as they grow older.