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Families File Claims for Fatal E. coli Outbreak at San Diego County Fair

by John Gomez | Last Updated: July 30, 2019

Three families who were affected by the E. coli outbreak linked to the San Diego County Fair have filed the first government tort claims against the 22nd District Agricultural Association (“22nd DAA”), the entity that runs the Fair. Gomez Trial Attorneys and national E. coli lawyer Ron Simon have joined forces to represent the families of Jedediah Cabezuela, a 2-year-old who died of E. coli poisoning, Christiano Lopez, who was hospitalized for 12 days due to life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome, and the family of Ryan Sadrabadi. All three children contracted the illness after attending the San Diego County Fair in June of 2019.

The 22nd DAA hosted the San Diego County Fair at The Del Mar Fairgrounds from May 31 to July 4, 2019. Among the attractions at the Fair were various livestock exhibits, which permitted fairgoers to pet animals. On June 28, health officials from the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) announced four confirmed E. coli cases linked to animal contact at the Fair. The outbreak pathogen was identified as shiga toxin-producing E. coli 0157:H7, also known as “STEC.” As of July 29, 2019, HHS has confirmed 11 cases of E. coli O157:H7 from exposure at the Fair. Most victims of the outbreak were children between the ages of 2 and 13. Health officials are still investigating and testing environmental samples taken from the Fair.

A government tort claim is a procedural step necessary for claimants to make prior to filing a lawsuit against a government entity. The California Tort Claims Act (“CTCA”), codified in California Government Code sections 810-996.6, requires claimants to notify a government entity within six months of an injury caused by the potential wrongdoing of a public entity. The CTCA limits the types of accidents and injuries for which public entities, including the State of California, can be liable. The act also designates specific exceptions to the state’s “sovereign immunity” for which the government can be liable. The CTCA also lays out the methods by which the public entity, in this case the 22nd DAA, may accept or reject the claim. If the claim is rejected or the public entity fails to respond within the time period designated by the statute, the claimants may then file a lawsuit against the government entity.

“Our investigation has already turned up enough information for us to determine that these illnesses were entirely preventable,” said Ron Simon. “We are confident that the information that will come to light through both state and federal investigations of the incident will confirm what we have found in our own investigations.”

“Through the litigation process, and working with health officials and our experienced team of investigators, we will find out exactly how the deadly bacteria was transmitted to the children, and how the transmission could have been prevented, so that this never happens to another child again,” continued Simon.

“We are deeply saddened by the needless loss of Jedediah ‘Jedi’ Cabezuela,” said Ben Coughlan of Gomez Trial Attorneys. “We have had the privilege of getting to know Jedi’s family, and learned what an incredible human being Jedi had become in his short 2 ½ years on this earth. By all accounts, Jedi was a child who could light up any room he entered. It is easy to see why after getting to know his incredible, loving parents, Tony and Rebecca. Our hearts are with all the families affected by this unnecessary tragedy.”

“The Cabezuelas, the Lopez’s and the Sadrabadis took their families to the fair expecting to have a good time,” said Coughlan. “No family should have to be concerned about their children getting sick, or worse, at a Fair geared towards attracting families and children.”

Ron Simon & Associates and Gomez Trial Attorneys are still investigating claims. Families with loved ones who have been impacted by the E.coli outbreak at the San Diego County Fair can receive a free case evaluation at 833-GET GOMEZ (833-438-4663). The families are represented by Ron Simon and Tony Coveny of Ron Simon & Associates from Houston, Texas, as well as John Gomez, Ben Coughlan and Kacie Vinel from Gomez Trial Attorneys in San Diego.

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