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Today the food safety lawyers at Ron Simon & Associates filed the nation’s first wrongful death lawsuit stemming from the hepatitis A outbreak linked to a Townsend Farms frozen berry blend sold at Costco stores.

The CDC identified the tainted berries as the source of over 165 hepatitis A illnesses in 10 states.  

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles, California against Costco, Townsend Farms, and other suppliers of the tainted fruit on behalf the Estate of Virginia Jolson and her six surviving children. 

Ms. Jolson, a healthy, independently-living 88-year old Arizona resident, had eaten Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berries daily in smoothies during the weeks preceding her hepatitis A illness. She experienced the first symptoms of illness on March 31, 2013.  She was first seen at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson on April 8th, and admitted that day with a history of nausea, vomiting and debilitating weakness. 

Over the next four weeks, Virginia’s condition deteriorated so drastically that her physicians placed her on dialysis and inserted a chest catheter.  By May 5th, he physicians compassionately decided to end what had been 28 days of aggressive hospital care, explaining to the family that her liver simply could not recover from the hepatitis A illness.

On May 6th, Virginia’s physicians sent her home for hospice care.  Virginia passed away the next morning, leaving 6 children and 17 grandchildren. 

Her death certificate lists the only cause of death as “acute, fulminant hepatitis A.”
CDC Identifies Townsend Farms’ Berries Sold at Costco as Source of Hepatitis Illnesses

On May 31, 2013, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) announced its investigation of a multistate outbreak of hepatitis A infections. 

As the investigation unfolded, the CDC, working with state and local investigators, identified imported Turkish pomegranate seeds, incorporated into a Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend berry mix sold at Costco, as the common food shared by the victims.  Townsend Farms and Costco later recalled the contaminated berry mix.

The CDC identified over 165 hepatitis A illnesses in 10 states, including Arizona (24), California (80), Colorado (29), Hawaii (8), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (11), Nevada (6), Utah (3), and Wisconsin (2). A summary of the outbreak and investigation can be found at
http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/Outbreaks/2013/A1b-03-31/index.html.