Colorado resident files lawsuit after organic frozen berries Hepatitis A outbreak

Anissa Ford's picture

The Houston and Steamboat Springs-based food safety law firm of Simon & Luke has filed the first lawsuit on behalf of a Colorado resident stemming from a multi-state Hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen berries manufactured by Oregon-based Townsend Farms and sold at Costco stores.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kelly Crabtree, a 40-year old Longmont, Colorado resident. The berries were a regular part of her family's gluten-free, organic, all-natural diet in which they eat no processed or fast foods. The berries were part of Kelly's daily routine, where she drank a smoothie for breakfast before going to work as a Montessori teacher.

On May 20, she began to suffer severe fatigue. On the 23rd, she suffered an especially difficult onset of extreme fatigue and muscle aches, which by early morning had developed into a fever and chills. She went home early and retired to bed. On May 24, 2013 she was seen at an Urgent Care clinic in Longmont. She was given antibiotics, and diagnosed with probable bacterial infection. Over the next few days, her condition worsened, and she returned to Urgent Care on May 27, where she was instructed to go directly to the Emergency Room at Longmont United Hospital. At Longmont, she was treated with IV hydration, nausea medication, and blood tests were performed. She registered elevated liver enzymes and a low white blood cell count, and was admitted to the hospital. The next day, when her diagnosis was inconclusive, she was discharged and sent home.

She returned to the hospital on June 1, with yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice). She was again given IV hydration and additional blood tests, and discharged. Later that day, she received a phone call from Costco telling her that the berries had been recalled for Hepatitis A contamination. On June 3, doctors confirmed that her blood test was positive for Hepatitis A.

Kelly was later contacted by the Boulder County Health Department and informed that she was one of the confirmed victims in the Townsend Farms / Costco Hepatitis A outbreak.

Kelly is still recovering from her Hepatitis A infection, and will require ongoing treatment. Prior to her illness, she was an avid hiker, runner, bicycler, yoga practitioner, and was in training for Xterra, in Utah this year.

Ms. Crabtree is one of at least 87 victims in 8 states who have contracted Hepatitis A from the contaminated berries. The victims are located in California, Colorado, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Washington.

Ron Simon, counsel for Ms. Crabtree, issued the following statement today: "Costco and Townsend Farms have an obligation to make sure that the food they sell is free of human feces. They failed that obligation, and will now have to answer for it."

According to Ron Simon, managing partner of Simon & Luke LLP, the firm currently represents dozens of victims involved in this outbreak, and anticipates filing many more lawsuits in the coming weeks. The firm has now filed four lawsuits against Townsend Farms and Costco, including the first filed in the United States.

A number of consumers have already filed lawsuits against Costco and Townsend Farms after contracting hepatitis A from the organic product.