Everett man sues over bad pot pie

An Everett man whose 2-year-old daughter was stricken with salmonella poisoning after eating a pot pie filed a lawsuit Thursday in Snohomish County Superior Court seeking damages from ConAgra Foods.

Eric Robertson, 30, said in the suit that his daughter showed symptoms of salmonella poisoning Sept. 22 and experienced severe diarrhea.

The girl was treated at a walk-in clinic on that day, and provided a stool sample that later was linked to a national outbreak of salmonella poisoning, the suit alleges. The outbreak led to a voluntary recall this month of all Banquet brand pot pies, and several pot pie store brands.

The girl, Rebecca Robertson, also was taken to an emergency room Sept. 26, where doctors performed a spinal tap to see if Rebecca had meningitis, Robertson said.

“She went through a lot of pain,” he said. “We were really shaken up over the situation. It was pretty worrisome.”

He said he lost a day’s work and his girlfriend lost a week’s work taking care of Rebecca, who couldn’t sleep. The child is doing a lot better, but still not back to “her normal, happy self,” he said.

Rebecca required additional medical treatment on Sept. 28 and 29, said William Marler, Robertson’s Seattle attorney.

So far in Washington, there have been 14 cases of salmonella poisoning related to the pot pies, including two in Snohomish County, state Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer said. Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported more than 180 cases in 34 states that have been connected to the pot pies.

Marler’s firm specializes in cases involving food-borne illnesses, and he’s no stranger to taking on food giant ConAgra.

Marler represents about 4,000 people around the country in a class-action lawsuit filed in February following salmonella poisoning linked to ConAgra peanut butter. That lawsuit is pending.

“First it was peanut butter and now it’s pot pies,” Marler said. “It’s time for ConAgra to take a hard look at the manufacturing process for all of its food products and stop shipping contaminated products to consumers.”

A ConAgra spokeswoman did not return phone calls.

Pinning the bacterial outbreak on the pot pies required some scientific detective work on the part of epidemiologists for the Washington Department of Health and similar organizations around the country.

Moyer said there are usually between 600 and 800 reported cases of salmonella poisoning in this state every year.

“What’s unusual is to have a common source,” Moyer said.

Most people recover from salmonella quickly, often without a doctor visit, lawyer Marler said. In the Robertson case, “this girl was really sick. Before we decide on the value of the case, we’ll have to wait and make sure she doesn’t develop complications.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Robertson said he wants to teach ConAgra a lesson.

“I’m extremely upset about it,” he said. “They manufacture food that goes out to the public and it’s not up to standards. It’s horrible to hear about all those people going through sickness. To see my own daughter going through this makes me angry.”

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