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Families sue Del Mar Fairgrounds operator over E. coli infections at 2019 fair

Posted at 12:41 PM, Jun 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-26 21:20:41-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Seven families are suing the company that runs the San Diego County Fair after they say members of their family contracted E. coli traced to the fair's livestock last summer.

The lawsuit alleges the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the annual fair and the fairgrounds, was negligent in its handling of the petting zoo area, failed to safely guard guests and warn of risks, properly inspect and clean, and screen animals at 2019's fair.

"People were getting sick all the way from June 8th to June 22nd, at least," said attorney Ben Coughlan, who is representing the plaintiffs. "That demonstrates a real failure by the fair to clean and properly protect the people they were inviting on, they were selling tickets to from this deadly disease."

RELATED COVERAGE: Families file claims for fatal E. coli outbreak at San Diego County Fair

As of July 2019, there were 11 laboratory-confirmed cases and two probable cases of patrons who visited the San Diego County Fair in June 2019 and contracted shiga toxin-producing strain of E. coli O157:H7 (STEC) thereafter, the suit states.

The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency traced the outbreak to children that had visited the animal areas or the petting zoo at the fair, or had other animal contact at the fair, county health officials reported. Officials added that the illnesses had no link to any food facilities the children accessed.

The family of 2-year-old Jedidiah King Cabezuela, from National City, is also represented in the suit. The toddler died 10 days after visiting the fair's petting zoo, suffering from kidney failure and other complications from STEC.

RELATED COVERAGE: E. Coli outbreak linked to San Diego County Fair reaches 11 cases

Coughlan says the family is still reeling from the loss and wants to see action taken.

"Of course, they are still struggling, they are dealing with an incomprehensible loss," Coughlan said. "For any of us who have children, it’s just something that’s unimaginable. The strength that family has, the strength to step up and say what happened last year was wrong, we want it fixed and we want it better in the future is remarkable."

In the lawsuit, the 22nd DAA is accused of also failing to provide adequate hand-washing stations and immediately remove or quarantine animals suspected of transmitting E. coli to guests.

RELATED COVERAGE: CDC: How to protect yourself around fair animals