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Farmington Hills, Michigan

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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
Attorney • (877) 377-7848

State Faces E Coli Lawsuit

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An outbreak of E. coli illnesses was traced to the Crossroads Petting Zoo at the 2004 North Carolina State Fair. In all, 108 children reportedly suffered serious diarrhea, and 15 of those came down with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening complication, especially in young children. One victim, an eight-year-old girl, suffered severe damage to her pancreas and kidneys. She is now on an insulin pump and blood pressure medication. The family is part of a consolidated lawsuit against the state of North Carolina.

Fourteen families in the lawsuit said they were unaware of the risks to their children at petting zoo. They argued that the state Department of Agriculture was negligent and did not implement basic safety steps recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and failed to properly warn the public and reduce the health risks associated with a petting zoo. They also contend that the zoo was so crowded that, at times, small children fell in into hay contaminated with manure. Attorneys for the state argued that agriculture officials took reasonable precautions, including hand sanitizer stations and signs that directed the public to wash their hands after touching animals, but the plaintiff attorneys contend that the hand sanitizer was inadequate to kill the bacteria and the exhibit ran out of hand sanitizer.

Opening testimony focused on reports before the 2004 fair which recommended a host of procedures to reduce risks of animal-to-human disease transmission. The list included:

  • educating the public and staff on the dangers
  • prohibiting food, beverages and smoking
  • regular cleaning of the exhibit
  • close supervision of children
  • special warnings to those at high risk, including pregnant women and children under 5

This is not the first incident of E-Coli from a petting zoo. Unfortunately, a recent study showed that petting zoos can carry the same or a greater percentage of E. coli than animals at feed lots. Parents of these injured children are being blamed for not making sure their children washed their hands, but anyone who has raised kids knows that trying to keep their hands washed constantly is a very difficult task. In reality, petting zoos need to do more to keep the general public safe, espeically small children. Until petting zoos take these health risks seriously there will be more outbreaks.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.