Taylor Fitzgerald said she was trying to do a good thing on the day the event in question took place. Her son was hungry, so she picked up a salad and take-’n’-bake pizza from the Papa Murphy’s restaurant near her home in Rocklin, California.
While the pizza was cooking in the oven, Fitzgerald gave her son the salad to tide him over.
“As a mom, you find it a great success when your 6-year-old is eating a salad,” Fitzgerald says. “You think it’s a good thing that you encourage.”
However, a few days later, Fitzgerald found out the seemingly wholesome snack was contaminated with E. coli bacteria. He developed a bad fever, bloody diarrhea, and severe body cramps. He was in such agonizing pain that Fitzgerald was forced to take him to the emergency room.
On Apr. 14, the child was admitted to Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento, where he was diagnosed with a severe form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS); it wasn’t until later that doctors learned the condition started as E. coli. His situation was so dire that it took medical staff more than two weeks before they could discharge him from the hospital.
“This has been really traumatizing for all of us,” Fitzgerald says. “Who thought eating a salad could result in your kid going into kidney failure?”
To date, nearly 150 people across the U.S. have fallen ill in an outbreak of E. coli linked to romaine lettuce, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One person, also in California, died as a result of complications from the illness, the agency said. Fitzgerald said she filed the lawsuit to ensure this number doesn’t get any higher.
“I’m doing it because I don’t want another family to go through it,” she said, adding that she was unaware of the E. coli risk when she bought the salad and would not have purchased it had she known. “I’m doing it because I want to have a little bit of justice for [my son], for what he’s gone through, for the hospital bills, for the trauma, for the long road of recovery that we have still ahead of us — for all those reasons.”