Petting zoo: Minnesota 10-year-old awarded $7.55 million in E. coli settlement

Maury Glover of Fo 9 reports a jury awarded $7.5 million to a Rosemount, Minnesota family after a young girl contracted E. coli from a petting zoo at Dehn’s Pumpkins in Dayton.

emma-rosemount-girl-e-coli_1479962267763_2325612_ver1-0_640_360In 2013, Emma Heidish spent a month overcoming a potentially deadly form of kidney disease which cause her kidneys to shut down and required surgery and near constant dialysis.

On Tuesday, a Hennepin County jury found the owners of the farm where she got E. coli, Dehn’s Pumpkins in Dayton, negligent for not taking steps to prevent their animals from transmitting diseases and awarded Emma $7.5 million.

Emma was one of seven people sickened in an October 2013 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked by the Minnesota Department of Health to cows in the animal attraction  at Dehn’s Pumpkins, LLC, a business located in Dayton, MN.

The bulk of the money is for future medical bills and pain and suffering.

“It is one of the largest verdicts in the country for an E. coli outbreak for a condition like this one and its one of the largest involving a petting zoo case,” Emma’s attorney, Fred Pritzker, said. “The people who run the pumpkin patch are decent people. It’s not that they were mean spirited. But, what they didn’t know caused a great deal of pain and suffering for my clients.”

Since the outbreak, the popular pumpkin patch no longer operates a petting zoo, but Pritzker sais animal attractions like it are not regulated or inspected.

His firm will push for a new law, named after Emma, requiring petting zoos to follow safety precautions, like having hand washing stations nearby to help prevent the spread of the disease.

“There have been 150 to 200 cases of outbreaks involving animals in public settings in the last 15 years, Pritzker said

Pritzker says Emma probably won’t see all the money because the farm’s insurance doesn’t have that much coverage.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks (which needs to be updatd) is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Petting-Zoo-Outbreaks-Table-4-8-14.xlsx