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2nd lawsuit filed against Sarasota ice cream company by woman who suffered miscarriage from listeria infection

Kristen Hopkins Ryan Osterholm.png
Posted at 8:53 AM, Jul 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-08 08:53:19-04

A second lawsuit has been filed against a Sarasota ice cream company that health officials have connected to a multistate listeria outbreak.

Kristen Hopkins and her husband Frank Imbruglia, of Massachusetts, filed the lawsuit against Big Olaf Creamery and Beverly's Ice Cream on July 7.

According to the lawsuit, Hopkins suffered a miscarriage after a listeria infection. The lawsuit said Hopkins ate ice cream twice at Beverly’s Ice Cream, which the suit said exclusively sells ice cream manufactured by Big Olaf Creamery.

Hopkins, Imbruglia, and their two children, ages 5 and 7 months, were in Florida for a family wedding on May 12. During that time they visited Beverly's, which was with in the complex of the Hyatt Regency Clearwater where they were staying.

They returned home on May 17 and by May 31 the lawsuit said Hopkins developed symptoms. By June 11 the lawsuit said her pain intensified and she experienced an intense headache. The next day she woke up "pale, shivering and fatigued" and Imbruglia took her to the hospital, the lawsuit said.

At the hospital, the lawsuit said the couple was told Hopkins lost the pregnancy. Hopkins was transferred to a higher level hospital as her symptoms persisted and worsened, there the lawsuit said she was admitted to the ICU for close observation.

Hopkins was told by doctors that her situation was "critical" and advised she may need a hysterectomy, the lawsuit said.

A blood culture taken from Hopkins tested positive for listeria and further testing showed the sample matched the strain involved in this outbreak, according to the lawsuit.

CDC officials say nearly all the 23 people known to have been infected in the outbreak either live in, or traveled to, Florida about a month before they got sick. Of the 23 illnesses, 22 people were hospitalized and one person died, identified as Mary Billman. Five of the patients were pregnant.

Billman's family has also filed a lawsuit against Big Olaf Creamery for wrongful death.

Hopkins was released from the hospital on June 17 but still received regular care from a home health nurse, the lawsuit said. It also stated that to this day Hopkins has "not fully regained her strength and is emotionally distraught over the traumatic loss of her baby."

The lawsuit said the couple is concerned the infection has impacted their future fertility.

2nd Big Olaf Lawsuit by ABC Action News on Scribd

Big Olaf released a statement on July 3 that said the link between its ice cream and the listeria outbreak has not been confirmed and is only speculation at this point. The company has been working with state and federal health officials since being informed about the possible contamination, the statement said.

"We have been transparent and have answered all their questions and provided them with all the information requested from us, as the health and well-being of the public is our first priority," the Big Olaf Creamery statement said.

Big Olaf Creamery has voluntarily contacted retail locations to recommend against selling their ice cream products, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday in a news release. Consumers who have Big Olaf Creamery brand ice cream at home should throw away any remaining product, officials said.

Listeria is a deadly bacteria that causes symptoms like fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. It can be treated with antibiotics, but it is especially dangerous to pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Listeria is one of the most dangerous forms of food poisoning. Symptoms usually start one to four weeks after eating contaminated food, but can start as soon as the same day. The first cases occurred in January of this year, but have continued through June, CDC officials said.