Pritzker Law Firm Initiates Suit in Salmonella Death of Minnesota Woman

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In the 4-month-old Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak that state and federal officials have said is liikely being caused by contaminated peanut butter, 72-year-old Shirley Mae Almer of Minnesota was the first infected patient to die. On behalf of her heirs, Minneapolis attorney Fred Pritzker has started the process of a lawsuit against the distributor and manufacturer of King Nut peanut butter.

The heirs of a 72-year-old woman from north-central Minnesota who died last month after being sickened by Salmonella Typhimurium initiated a lawsuit this week after retaining leading food safety lawyer Fred Pritzker.

Pritzker, an outspoken critic of the federal food safety system, said the family is deeply disturbed about the food poisoning that contributed to the death of Shirley Mae Almer on Dec. 21. Mrs. Almer, a widow, was living in a long-term care facility in Brainerd, Minn., and consumed peanut butter that state health officials have since confirmed was contaminated by the same strain of Salmonella bacteria that has sickened at least 448 people in 43 states since mid-September. The onset of most cases came after Oct. 1.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday that five deaths may be associated with the outbreak, including two in Minnesota. Pritzker said the two Minnesota victims are Almer and a 78-year-old man who also lived in a Brainerd-area nursing home. Both individuals had underlying health conditions. Almer, a widow, was battling cancer, Pritzker said.

Pritzker, who represented some of the victims of the 2007 Salmonella outbreak associated with Peter Pan peanut butter, said his office filed documents in Hennepin County District Court Thursday in Minneapolis that will establish Almer's son, Jeffrey Almer, as trustee for the woman's heirs. The filing is a precursor to a civil complaint that Pritzker said he will file very soon against Virginia-based Peanut Corporation of America and King Nut Companies of Solon, Ohio.

Peanut Corporation of America, a manufacturer of peanut butter, and King Nut Companies, a distributor, have both announced voluntary peanut butter recalls related to the Salmonella outbreak.

Minnesota has been hit hard by the Salmonella outbreak. At least 33 confirmed cases have been reported by the Minnesota Department of Health, including 13 people who were hospitalized. Only three other states have reported more illnesses than Minnesota.

The CDC has said common brands of peanut butter sold in grocery stores have not been associated with the outbreak. The products sold and distributed by Peanut Corporation of America and King Nut Companies are sold only to food service accounts such as nursing homes, hospitals, schools and cafeterias.

The CDC said it is continuing to investigate exposures that Salmonella outbreak patients had to peanut butter and "peanut butter-containing products.'' That announcement came one day after Kellogg Company announced an inventory hold of certain Keebler and Austin brand sandwich crackers containing peanut butter. Kellogg said it is holding all inventories of the products under its control as a precaution because Peanut Corporation of America is a supplier of peanut paste used in the making of the crackers.

Fred Pritzker is founder and president of Pritzker Law, a firm with involvement in practically every major food poisoning outbreak including the Peter Pan peanut butter Salmonella outbreak and the Taste of Chicago Salmonella outbreak in 2007, among many others. The firm has collected millions of dollars on behalf of victims of food poisoning. For more information, visit http://www.pritzkerlaw.com/ or contact Fred Pritzker at (612) 338-0202. email: fhp @ prtizkerlaw.com

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KATHY WILL
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