Vaughn Foods Inc., Moore, Okla., is the second defendant named in a lawsuit by a St. Louis woman who suffered kidney failure from an October E. coli outbreak allegedly caused by romaine lettuce.
The amended complaint, filed Dec. 15 in Circuit Court of St. Louis County, does not specify a dollar amount. It asks for a jury trial and requests that defendants be ordered to pay medical bills, legal costs and punitive damages.
The outbreak ultimately sickened more than 60 people in 10 states. No one died. Several people, including plaintiff Mary Kozlowski, were hospitalized. The contamination was initially thought to be limited to salad bars at Schnucks Supermarket Inc. stores around St. Louis. It was later discovered to be widespread.
Officials from Schnucks and Vaughn declined comment on the pending food safety litigation.
Attorney Bill Marler of the Seattle law firm Marler Clark LLP said Dec. 20 that he amended the original complaint he filed for Kozlowski to include the Oklahoma foodservice company after Schnucks officials told him that Vaughan supplied the fresh-cut romaine used on their salad bars.
The suit against Schnucks and Vaughan also names four “John Does” that could include other companies or individuals involved in the growing and distribution of the romaine.
“We’re going to keep working our way back up stream to find out who they are,” Marler said.
Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named Schnucks, Vaughn Foods or the farm where the romaine was grown in their reports following the investigation of the October outbreak.
The lawsuit seeks damages from all defendants on three counts: strict liability; breach of warranty; and negligence/negligence per se. The complaint contends Kozlowski is entitled to punitive damages because the defendants violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.