ALIQUIPPA, Pa. — Two people who claim they were stricken with severe illness after drinking milk from Brunton Dairy have filed lawsuits against the western Pa. dairy.
Henrietta F. Kretzler and her husband, Walter P. Kretzler, of Leetsdale, Pa., filed a lawsuit Nov. 12 after Henrietta reportedly spent three weeks in the intensive care unit with abdominal pain and suffering shock, requiring surgery on her small bowel. After being released from the hospital, she required a stay at a skilled nursing facility.
Joseph A. Wakeling Jr., Moon Township, Pa., filed a lawsuit against Brunton Dairy Dec. 7 after also reportedly suffering from abdominal pain and other ailments. He was reportedly admitted into an intensive care unit and spent 10 days in the hospital, released to a skilled nursing facility and then readmitted to the hospital. Besides the abdominal pain, Wakeling reportedly suffered the loss of kidney function and continues to have dialysis.
More than 10 people were reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for having contracted the bacteria, Yersinia enterocolitica. The link between the people was reported to be milk or other products from the Brunton Dairy.
Both lawsuits are seeking in excess of $25,000.
Brunton Dairy responded to the Kretzler lawsuit Oct. 19. The attorney for the dairy, Jeffrey D. Truitt, responded to the allegations in the lawsuit.
On Aug. 24, the Allegheny County Department of Health tested a half gallon of ice cream supplied by the Kretzlers.
According to the lawsuit filed, the Pa. Department of Health tested the ice cream and found a positive for Yersinia enterocolitica. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture tested the same half gallon of ice cream Sept. 30 and it tested negative for the bacteria.
The lawsuit response filed by Truitt on behalf of the Brunton Dairy says 30 samples of milk and environmental swabs were tested around July 29 and there were no positive results for the bacteria.
Wakeling lawsuit. Brunton Dairy responded to the Wakeling lawsuit Dec. 28.
According to the court documents, the Allegheny County Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture obtained approximately 20 milk samples and 30 environmental samples, including water samples and swabs taken from equipment located at the Brunton Dairy also in July. All of the samples reportedly returned negative for the Yersinia enterocolitica.
On Sept. 7, the PDA permitted Brunton Dairy to perform a short run operation in which it produced 20 gallons of whole milk., and on Sept. 26, the department of agriculture informed Brunton Dairy that all samples of the milk returned negative for the Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria and cleared the dairy to resume production.
Brunton Dairy continued operations Oct. 1, and on Oct. 10, the PDA collected a one half-gallon sample of each type of milk produced by Brunton Dairy. The PDA informed Brunton Dairy Oct. 28 that one half-gallon sample of skim milk returned positive for Yersinia enterocolitica.
On Nov. 16, the department of agriculture informed Brunton Dairy that the skim milk sample sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Health determined that the skim milk did not have same pathway as the bacteria collected from the individuals who reportedly became ill from Yersinia enterocolitica this past summer.
According to the lawsuit documents filed, during a conference call Dec. 12, the PDA advised Brunton Dairy that a lab error occurred during the test of samples collected in October.
The positive result indicating a trace of bacteria in the sample of skim milk was most likely caused by lab contamination. Brunton Dairy was then cleared to resume operations.
Jury trials have been requested in both lawsuits. There are no dates set for hearings.
Calls were placed to the Bruntons’ attorney and the Brunton Dairy, but no one commented on the lawsuit.
The Brunton Dairy has not resumed operations on the farm.