Disney, others settle salmonella lawsuit

Walt Disney World and several produce and insurance companies have settled a lawsuit that emerged from a 2002 salmonella outbreak at the giant resort.

Disney and the other companies did not disclose the terms. Likewise, Disney and the Boston woman who filed a suit against Disney and the produce companies in 2004 also settled last spring, while keeping the details of the deal secret.

The case, now closed, originated after April Lynn Smith, now 25 years old, and at least 140 other people reportedly got sick after eating diced, fresh tomatoes at various Disney World restaurants during the summer of 2002. They contracted salmonella javiana.

Most of the people didn't fall ill until after they returned home, to 32 different states, so it took several weeks for state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discover and trace the outbreak.

As soon as the CDC and the Florida Department of Health determined the source, Disney pulled all of the suspected produce.

Smith sued. Disney then sued the produce and insurance companies.

Salmonella causes temporary food-poisoning symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever, which usually go away in a few days. Smith complained of symptoms that had her "in complete distress" for 12 days and in a weakened condition for several months.

A Disney spokeswoman would not comment on the settlements. Attorneys of record in the case for Safeco Insurance Co. of America, American States Insurance Co., Fruit Dynamics and Collier County Produce did not respond to requests for comment. Smith also did not respond to a message requesting comment.

In the suits, Disney and the produce companies denied they had caused the outbreak.

According to a CDC report, the outbreak occurred June 25-29, 2002. Of particular concern, the U.S. Transplant Games were under way at Disney, involving a national athletic competition of recipients with donated organs.

Scott Powers can be reached at 407-420-5441 or spowers@orlandosentinel.com.

Copyright © 2007, Orlando Sentinel

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