Marler Clark has reached a settlement with fruit-juice maker Odwalla Inc. on behalf of the families of five young victims of a 1996 food-poisoning outbreak caused by a tainted batch of the company’s apple juice.
The hefty settlement brings closer to an end a painful saga for the company and victims’ families, which began when Washington health authorities announced the outbreak at Halloween a year and a half ago. This brings the number of settled lawsuits to 17, with three remaining.
The settlement calls for an undisclosed amount of money to be placed in trust for the victims, five children who became seriously ill after drinking the tainted apple juice in Washington and Colorado. The youngsters have since resumed normal lives but will need to be monitored for years for potential long-term consequences.
The amounts of the settlements will be substantial enough to fully compensate the children and their families for what they went through and may encounter in the future.
The lawsuits were filed by the families of Michael Beverly, 4, Katherine Wright, 4, and Brooke Hiatt of Seattle; Brian Dimock, 7, of Washington, D.C., and Amanda Berman, 5, of Chicago. The families reached the settlement in talks with Odwalla Chairman Greg Steltenpohl and chief executive officer Stephen Williamson, and Odwalla’s insurance firm.
The outbreak was caused by E. coli, which tainted a batch of apple juice bottled at Odwalla’s processing plant in Dinuba. Seventy people were sickened by the juice and a 16-month old Colorado girl died. The poisoning was a shock to the young, fast-growing company, which promoted its unpasteurized juices as nutritious health foods. The company now pasteurizes its apple juice.