Mayes County Lawsuit Filed Over E. Coli Outbreak

Monday, March 30th 2009, 2:21 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Locust Grove restaurant at the center of an E. coli outbreak that sickened hundreds and left one man dead is now facing a lawsuit.  A Creek County woman who says she ate at Country Cottage and got sick is the first E. coli victim to sue the restaurant.

2/25/2009 Related story: Locust Grove Wells Test Positive For E. Coli

Country Cottage's owners re-opened their doors last November, hoping to put the deadly E. coli outbreak behind them.  But, for many families affected by the bacteria it's far from over.  And, one woman who says she got sick from eating at Country Cottage says the restaurant should be liable for selling contaminated food.

Donna Crafton's attorney says his client is a retired grandmother, who was fit as a fiddle, before she visited the Locust Grove restaurant, last summer.  He says Crafton fell ill within hours of eating at Country Cottage and almost died, spending 21 days in the hospital.

Crafton is one of 72 people hospitalized in connection to the E. coli outbreak.  Some victims were children.  One man, 26-year-old Chad Ingle, was killed.

Country Cottage was shut down for about 12 weeks, during a state health investigation.  The health department identified the restaurant as the source of the outbreak, but never pinpointed the specific source of the bacteria.

Tests on Country Cottage surfaces, food items, well water, and employee stool specimens all came back negative for the specific strain of E. coli that sickened hundreds.  The restaurant had to pass eleven conditions from the health department, before it was cleared to re-open.

Neither the Craftons nor their attorney wanted to talk on camera.  But, the attorney did tell The News On 6 that this has been difficult, painful, and costly for the Creek County couple.  And, the way he reads the law, if Country Cottage served contaminated food, they should be liable.      

Country Cottage's attorney says he hasn't seen the lawsuit, so he had no comment.

The state health department is still working on a final report on the E. coli outbreak.  It's supposed to be released within the next couple of weeks.