Cargill settles E. coli lawsuit with 11-year-old Minnesota girl

The parents of an 11-year-old Minnesota girl who spent more than a month in the hospital because of an illness caused by an E. coli-contaminated hamburger have reached a settlement with Cargill, the family's attorney said.

Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in legal cases involving food borne illness, said the settlement with the parents of Ruth Hemmingson of Mahtomedi was reached late Wednesday afternoon. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Ruth became ill in 2007 after eating contaminated hamburger supplied by Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation. The hamburger meat was linked to an E. coli outbreak that led Cargill to voluntarily recall about 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties.

According to Marler, Ruth developed a syndrome that forced her to spend more than three weeks on kidney dialysis. Her medical bills added up to nearly $350,000, and she now has a high risk of developing end stage renal disease, Marler said.

"I know they're pleased to have this behind them and will try to move forward to take care of their kid," Marler said Thursday. "She's made a miraculous recovery but she still has risks of future complications."

In a written statement, Cargill said it was pleased for the Hemmingson family that the case is resolved. It also said the company has invested large amounts of money to fund food safety research while working with those who have been sickened.

"In the years since the 2007 recall, Cargill has worked privately with each of the people affected to address their needs," the statement said.

Marler also represents Stephanie Smith, a Minnesota woman who was in a coma for nine weeks as the result of an E. coli infection traced to hamburger distributed by Cargill. Smith, who is now paralyzed from the waist down, was featured in a recent New York Times investigation. Her case against Cargill has yet to be resolved, Marler said.

"It's a very complex case with a lot of issues regarding future problems to deal with," Marler said. He said he and his client planned to meet with Cargill and its insurers later this year to try to resolve the claim.

Marler said about a dozen claims he has worked on stemming from Cargill's 2007 ground beef recall have now been settled. Smith's claim is the only one pending.

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