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Marler Clark Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Listeria Outbreak Linked to Big Olaf Creamery

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

NAPLES, Fla. — A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the estate of Mary Billman against Big Olaf Creamery in the Listeria outbreak linked to the company's ice cream. Billman's estate is represented by Marler Clark and local counsel Scott Weinstein. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

On Jan. 18, 2022, Billman was in the state of Florida, visiting her daughter who lives in Hollywood, Fla. On this date, at the Big Olaf's Creamery ice cream parlor located at 3350 Bahia Vista in Sarasota, Fla., Billman consumed ice cream that had been manufactured, distributed and sold by the defendant Big Olaf. The ice cream that Billman consumed on this date was contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes.

Billman's symptoms persisted, and on Jan. 27, 2022, she woke up with a fever over 103 degrees. Her daughter called an ambulance and Billman was rushed to the emergency department at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., where she soon began treatment for a septic illness.

Over the course of the next two days, Billman's organs began to shut down due to her septic illness. By the time her family was able to see her again, she was unconscious. She would never regain consciousness, and died on Jan. 29, 2022, leaving behind her husband, the plaintiff; three daughters named Kelli Mitsdarfer, Kara Gray and Richelle Brown; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. 

On July 2, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the preliminary results of an epidemiologic investigation conducted into the Listeria monocytogenes illnesses of 23 people who live, or who lived prior to their deaths, in 10 different states. The investigation into these illnesses had shown that that the cause of the outbreak was Big Olaf's ice cream products.

"What is shocking is that the Listeria linked to the outbreak was present in this ice cream beginning in 2021, this shows a complete failure to keep the manufacturing facility clean and in good repair," said food safety lawyer Bill Marler.

The first case of illness in the outbreak experienced onset of symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes infection in January 2021. Illnesses occurred sporadically over the course of the year and a half since the first case became ill, continuing to cause illnesses through June of 2022. Due to the delay in symptom onset and illness reporting, the total number of people sickened in this outbreak is not yet known.