E. coli victim with kidney disease sues Cargill for $100 million


Stephanie Smith, a children's dance instructor from Cold Spring who was horribly sickened in 2007 after eating a hamburger tainted by E.coli bacteria,  is filing a $100 million lawsuit today against mega Minnesota-based Cargill in U.S. District Court. Smith became so ill after eating the meat, which was traced to a Cargill plant, that her kidneys failed and she suffered seizures. Doctors kept her in a medically induced coma for months while they treated her, and she remains in a wheelchair.

The New York Times picked up Smith's story as part of an investigation into meatpacking:

The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled "American Chef's Selection Angus Beef Patties." Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.

On his blog, her attorney, Bill Marler, wrote:

This young woman has been on a horrifying and unimaginable journey just to regain basic motor and communication skills. She has lost the ability to walk, to dance, to have a family, to work or care for herself. She is tied to a wheelchair and a pharmacy of medications to address all the medical issues she struggles with. She will likely need multiple kidney transplants. I don't think it's possible to adequately convey in a sentence or two the massive challenges Stephanie has faced and continues to face.

Here's some video about Smith's ordeal from the New York Times via YouTube:

Cargill had $116.6 billion in sales and other revenues, and $3.33 billion in earnings in 2009.