Simon & Luke Files First Salmonella Wrongful Death Claim Against Wright County Egg
The Houston-based 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 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.
Contaminated Wright County Eggs Cause Salmonella Enteritidis Death
Simon & Luke 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. Mate Marlais was a retired machinist who died after eating Salmonella-contaminated Wright County Eggs at a local restaurant.
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.
Tests also confirmed the presence of rhabdomyelosis, or skeletal muscle destruction. 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 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.
After 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.
The Marlais’ attorney, Ron Simon, commented on the lawsuit: “Mate’s death was entirely preventable. Wright County Egg has a history of Salmonella contamination in its facility. Here, the company’s own test results showed that its hens and eggs were contaminated with Salmonella, but they sent those poisoned eggs out the door anyway. We will make sure that Wright County Egg is brought to justice and that others do not suffer the same fate in the future.”
Filth and Squalor at Wright County Egg Facilities
In the midst of the Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an investigation into Wright County Egg’s Galt, Iowa manufacturing facilities, which included on-site inspections of the company’s facilities.
The conditions observed by the FDA inspectors were so objectionable that the findings were outlined in a Form FDA 483, issued by inspectors only when they observe significant conditions that indicate that an FDA-regulated product is in violation of the FDA’s requirements. Examples include when food is being produced, prepared, packed, or held under conditions that it may be contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health.
The FDA investigators were taken aback at the sights and smells that greeted them at Wright County Egg: manure seeping out of the concrete foundation of some of the laying houses; 8-feet tall piles of chicken manure so large that the doors to the hen houses couldn’t be closed, leaving them open to wildlife and domesticated animals; live and dead flies too numerous to count on and around the shell eggs, egg belts, feed, and walkways; live and dead maggots too numerous to count; live mice in the hen houses; and escaped chickens using the 8-feet tall piles of chicken manure to climb into the hen houses and make contact with the hens laying the eggs. This list, however, is not exhaustive; the report goes on to detail a number of other unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Wright County Egg’s Galt, Iowa facilities.
Further, samples collected by FDA investigators during the course of their inspection revealed at least six different positive test results for Salmonella Enteritidis matching the exact genetic strain involved in the nationwide outbreak.
Congressional Investigation Reveals Wright County Egg Knew of Positive Salmonella Test Results Before Outbreak
Likely owing to the extreme nature of on-site investigator’s findings and the sheer number of people sickened, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee called a hearing to investigate the 2010 Salmonella Enteritidis egg outbreak. Both Wright County Egg’s owner, Austin DeCoster, and Chief Operating Officer, Peter DeCoster, were called to testify before the Subcommittee about how such deplorable conditions could occur at their production facilities.
In the course of its investigations, the Committee on Energy and Commerce obtained records from Wright County Egg’s facilities, dated between 2008 and 2010, that showed 426 positive tests for Salmonella.
Wright County Egg’s Own Expert Warned of Salmonella Contamination Before the Outbreak
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.
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!”
Wright County Egg Owner Has Sordid History of Salmonella Outbreaks
Wright County Egg’s owner at the time of the outbreak, Austin DeCoster, has a long history of disregard for the safety of the consumers who purchase and eat eggs produced by his various companies.
Though his companies were the suspected source of Salmonella Enteritidis outbreaks as far back as 1979, Mr. DeCoster’s operations were the confirmed source of an outbreak as early as 1982, when approximately 36 illnesses and one death in New Hampshire were traced to consumption of eggs produced at a facility owned and operated by Mr. DeCoster. Public health officials suspected that the same DeCoster-owned facility was responsible for a simultaneous outbreak in Massachusetts that sickened 400.
Five years later, in 1987, eggs produced by farms owned and operated by Mr. DeCoster caused a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak that killed 9 and sickened roughly 500, which began among elderly and chronically ill patients at Bird S. Coler Memorial Hospital in New York City. To date, it remains the deadliest outbreak attributed to Salmonella Enteritidis-contaminated eggs in the United States.
In 1992, five years after the deadly New York outbreak, an outbreak of Salmonella in Connecticut was linked to contaminated eggs produced at Mr. DeCoster’s Maryland farm.
As a result of his record, numerous state and local regulatory agencies have, at different times, banned, quarantined, forced testing, or otherwise limited the sale of eggs from egg production facilities owned by Austin DeCoster.
Let Simon & Luke Help You
Ron Simon has been a leading advocate for the victims of the 2010 Wright County Egg Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak. He has led the charge against the unsafe and unsanitary practices of Wright County Egg, and conducted a personal inspection of the company’s production facilities implicated in the outbreak.
Mr. Simon also travelled with to Washington, D.C. to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing on the Salmonella egg outbreak, where one of his clients testified about her illness linked to the contaminated eggs.
If you tested positive for Salmonella in 2010 after eating eggs or egg products, and were contacted by your local health department, then your illness may have been related to this outbreak. If so, you are entitled to significant compensation for your illness from Wright County Egg and its insurers – including payment for all of your medical bills, lost wages, and suffering you endured. But time is running out – the statute of limitations will soon expire in some states and your claims must be filed before that time.
The attorneys at Simon & Luke have successfully represented a number of clients involved in this outbreak, and have already collected settlements for over 65 victims. We have represented over 5000 victims of food poisoning across the United States, filing hundreds of salmonella lawsuits and recovering over $500,000,000 for our clients.
Please call us toll free at 1-888-335-4901 or contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org – we are happy to answer your questions free of charge.