Multiple families have filed new lawsuits against the county and state fair organizations, claiming their children experienced E. coli symptoms after visiting events at fairgrounds.
And lawyers for other families say there are plans for additional lawsuits related to E. coli outbreaks.
Two separate E. coli outbreaks affected local residents in the past two years, according to state health officials. Alicia Banks of the Shelby Star reports the first occurred following the 2011 NC State Fair in Raleigh. The second occurred following the 2012 Cleveland County Fair, in which more than 100 people experienced E. coli-related symptoms and a 2-year-old Gaston County boy died. State health officials linked both outbreaks to petting zoos.
The Tallent family, of Shelby, is seeking $500,000 in damages from the NC State Fair for Hunter Tallent, who still receives medical treatment after a 2011 E. coli outbreak linked to the NC State Fair.
Two families filed lawsuits against the Cleveland County Fairgrounds Inc. seeking more than $20,000 in damages combined for their children.
Grady and Elizabeth McNair filed a civil complaint against the fairgrounds on behalf of their child, Jordan McNair. According to the civil complaint, Jordan went to the petting zoo at the Cleveland County Fair on Sept. 27, 2012, and he became ill afterward. The illness caused Jordan “serious physical pain and suffering … disfigurement, and permanent injury,” according to the suit filed in Gaston County.
Aime Westfall, of Maiden, took her son Dominic to the Cleveland County Fair on Sept. 29, 2012. He later developed gastrointestinal symptoms, including a fever and bloody diarrhea, according to the filing in Cleveland County.
Both civil filings noted the families incurred medical bills in the treatment of Jordan and Dominic.
In the suits, the families claim several faults by the county and state fairgrounds.
According to court documents obtained from the Cleveland and Gaston county courthouses, the families claim the county and state fairgrounds
created environments susceptible to widespread E. coli contamination and both failed to give adequate warnings to fair patrons and didn’t thoroughly inspect the premises to determine the likelihood of E. coli exposure.
The county fairgrounds claims it supplied a warning to patrons during the fair, stating it could not be liable for any injury or death related to agritourism activities under state law, according to court documents.
Two other families filed lawsuits in Gaston County against the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in November. Both are seeking damages of more than $10,000 for 5-year-old Hannah Roberts and nearly 2-year-old Isaac Dover, who both suffered health complications related to E. coli, according to court documents.
A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/petting-zoos-outbreaks.