Lawyers representing consumers alleging SE infection as a result of consuming products derived from Wright County Eggs and affiliates are having a difficult time in pursuing their cases. The significant issue relates to proving that infection was in fact derived from the farms alleged to be the source of SE.
It is noted that in a “normal” year approximately 5,000 cases of SE are reported to the CDC of which 64% are attributed to consumption of eggs. The majority of patients investigated with confirmed SE in the July-August outbreak yielded isolates with the pulse field gel electrophoresis pattern JEGX01.0004.
Commonality of PFGE patterns among isolates obtained from the suspect farm and from consumers is not definitive. DNA sequencing, now in progress, must be used to differentiate outbreak-related cases from sporadic cases and to specifically determine the source of infection.
Attorneys in Seattle, Houston, Chicago and Minneapolis have filed cases relating to Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa. Fortunately, there have been no mortalities and most cases have responded without hospitalization using supportive therapy or in some cases antibiotics. A few incidents of immunosuppressed persons were those with predisposing intestinal conditions have been more severely affected.
Since the magnitude of claims is relatively low and determining cause and effect has been difficult, lawyers are negotiating settlements with insurance companies carrying the liability coverage for the two implicated farms to obtain nominal settlements with minimal expenditure on expertise, analysis and to avoid long and expensive trials. Thus far, only one attorney has filed in a Federal court seeking class-action status for consumers.
According to an informed observer, this process may extend over many years.