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JUICE FIRM SUED BY FAMILY OF BOY INFECTED WITH E. COLI.

Byline: George Raine San Francisco Examiner

The mother of a 6-year-old Seattle boy who became infected with bacteria allegedly contained in a bottle of unpasteurized apple juice produced by Odwalla Inc. has filed a lawsuit against the company.

The boy, U-Seong ``Noel'' Kim, is one of 40 people identified by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who contracted the E. coli bacterial infection allegedly linked to Odwalla's product and the first to file a legal complaint.

The government says there are 19 E. coli infections in Washington, 11 in California, four in Colorado and six in British Columbia linked to Half Moon Bay-based Odwalla.

Kim, and his mother, Hye-Ryeong Kim, filed the personal injury complaint, which also seeks punitive damages, Thursday in King County Superior Court in Seattle.

Also named as a defendant is Starbucks Inc., the coffee retailer with corporate offices in Seattle. The Kim family purchased the Odwalla juice at a Starbucks store in Los Angeles on Oct. 17.

Odwalla's spokeswoman, Sydney Fisher, said the company will make no comment on litigation.

The suit was filed two days after Odwalla's co-founder and chairman, Greg Steltenpohl, went to Seattle to visit the family of one of the youngsters infected with E. coli linked to his juice and to reiterate to reporters that the company is willing to pay all medical bills incurred by people whose infections are traced to the product.

However, the Seattle lawyer who represents the Kims, Kelly Corr, said Thursday that that was insufficient. ``It sounded like he was making a nice first step, offering to pay the bills, but I did not hear anything about the pain and suffering of these people and nothing about wage losses and I did not hear anything about past conduct,'' said Corr.

He claims that Odwalla, as well as Starbucks, continued to sell unpasteurized apple juice despite reports in the past few years about E. coli bacteria found in unpasteurized apple juice and apple cider.

``They ought to know what the hell is going on in that business and once you know that you change your manufacturing process, eliminate the product or, at the bare minimum, put a warning on the product,'' said Corr.

In the suit, the Kims say Odwalla ``breached its implied warranty of the merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose by selling and serving juice which was contaminated and unfit for human consumption.''

The Kim youth was treated at Seattle's Children's Hospital for five days in October, was released, but then returned to its emergency room after his diarrhea worsened, said Corr. Other youngsters who drank Odwalla juice and became infected have medical conditions that are believed to be worse than Kim's, but Corr said there was ``guarded optimism'' about Kim's recovery.

Another Seattle lawyer, Bill Marler, who settled $30 million worth of claims against Jack-In-The-Box Family Restaurants over an earlier E. coli outbreak, said he thought the Kims' case was premature.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 9, 1996
Words:489
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