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A $13.5 million settlement was recently reached for the family of a 3 year-old who died after eating E.Coli tainted food at a Sizzler restaurant in South Milwaukee in July of 2000. Some 140 individuals fell sick after eating at two Sizzler restaurants in the region.

Unfortunately, the 3 year-old girl developed hemolytic uremia syndrome. This condition often develops in young children exposed to the E.Coli bacteria. It causes the digestive system to destroy red blood cells and eventually shut the kidneys down. When this occurs the body is unable to remove toxins from the blood. The child will move quickly from mildly sick to gravely ill. Those lucky enough to survive may be left with permanent kidney disorders requiring life-time dialysis.

The family’s settlement was reached with the meat supplier, Excel Corporation, a subsidiary of food giant Cargill Inc., as well as the franchise owner of the Sizzler restaurants. Excel had argued that it was not responsible for the death of the child because its conduct comported with Federal meat-processing regulations that pre-empted State product liability laws. The trial court accepted this argument, but when the appeals court reversed this holding and found that state law furthered the objectives of the Federal regulations, Excel offered up settlement. Incidentally, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up Excel’s appeal.

Though it has been a couple of years since the last major outbreak of E.Coli poisoning related to the ingestion of spinach, it is something that all parents of small children should be familiar with, particularly if they eat out often. Interestingly, it has been reported that there is a correlation between families that have recently moved or are in the process of moving and children sickened by E.Coli. Hemolytic uremia syndrome is rarely seen by the medical community in Northern California, so knowledge of this condition by both the parent and the medical experts could save a child’s life.

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