Attorneys Fred Pritzker, Brendan Flaherty and Lindsay Lien Rinholem won a $7.55 million verdict on behalf of a 10-year-old child who contracted an E. coli O157:H7 infection from animals on a pumpkin farm. The child (E.H.) developed a kind of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Yesterday, November 22, 2016, a Hennepin County jury returned a verdict in the amount of $7,550,000 in favor of E.H. who suffered severe kidney damage as a result of an E. coli O157:H7 infection acquired at a pumpkin patch animal attraction (File # 27-CV-14-17068).
E. coli O157:H7 Linked to Animals at a Pumpkin Farm
E.H. was one of seven people sickened in an October 2013 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked by the Minnesota Department of Health to cows in the animal attraction at Dehn’s Pumpkins, LLC, a business located in Dayton, MN.
Dehn’s Pumpkins operates a Halloween pumpkin patch each fall. In 2013, the business offered children the opportunity to pet and feed cows that were being raised on the property. The interaction area consisted of a red metal gate that separated a cement-lined commercial feedlot housing 60 or more cows weighing approximately 700 lbs., each. Testimony at trial showed that on the day E.H. visited the pumpkin patch, thousands of pounds of manure together with contaminated bedding and hay littered the enclosure. Manure was on the cows’ hooves and hides as well as on the gate through which children reached to pet and feed the animals.
The operators of the pumpkin patch provided no handwashing stations, warning signs or any of the other proven measures to prevent transmission of diseases from animals including those listed in the 2011 edition of the Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings, 2011: National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Inc. (NASPHV), which is considered an industry standard for disease prevention.
Operators of the business claimed they had no idea that diseases could be transmitted from animals and took no preventive measures because it never occurred to them that display of animals in this setting posed a risk to children. They also claimed they were not at fault because hand sanitizer was available at a concession stand.
As a result of her E. coli O157:H7 infection, E.H. developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially deadly form of kidney disease. She has already lost 50% of her kidney function and is predicted to require dialysis and kidney transplantation in her early twenties.
In announcing this verdict, Pritzker Hageman law firm is also announcing its campaign to introduce and pass legislation requiring petting zoo and animal attraction operators to follow safety precautions such as those set forth in the Compendium. According to Fred Pritzker, the firm’s president, “this case painfully demonstrates the severe harm that results from the unsafe display of animals. We owe it to brave Emma H. and others like her who have been needlessly exposed to deadly disease despite the existence of effective and inexpensive precautions that actually work. That’s why passage of what we will be calling ‘Emma’s Law’ is so important.” We will continue to provide updates on the progress of this law.