Former Marine Recruit Infected with E. Coli Sues Boot Camp Food Vendor

Recruits with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, traverse an obstacle during Confidence Course II at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, July 17, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Christian Garcia)
Recruits with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, traverse an obstacle during Confidence Course II at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, July 17, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Christian Garcia)

In a lawsuit filed Monday, a former Marine recruit says Sodexo -- the food vendor at the Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego -- was negligent in its food safety practices and is therefore liable for the E.coli-linked medical condition that ended his military career.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in October that more than 300 Marine recruits were treated for symptoms associated with exposure to E.coli bacteria at Marine Corps Recruit Depot and Camp Pendleton.

An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control confirmed 62 cases of E.coli infections and listed another 62 as probable. An additional 120 cases are suspected. Thirty Marines required hospitalization.

The CDC suggested under-cooked ground beef was the source of the outbreak, noting inconsistent cooking temperatures and poor recruit hygiene habits as contributing conditions.

Vincent Grano is one of the recruits who ended up hospitalized, and the first to take legal action. According to his complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego, Grano was diagnosed with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a complication found in about 10 percent of people who contract E.coli.

While in the hospital, the syndrome led to Grano's kidneys failing and a bout of seizures. He was diagnosed with epilepsy. On June 29, he was discharged from the Marines due to his seizure disorder, the complaint says.

His attorneys said Grano has permanent brain and kidney damage, and that they have been contacted by other affected recruits.

"We have been contacted by five others," William Marler, an attorney who specializes in food safety, said in an email. "All Marines who had E.coli and developed HUS."

Marler and attorneys from the San Diego law firm Gordon & Holmes are representing Grano.

In an email, the recruit depot said Sodexo is still feeding recruits, but that it has taken steps to ensure food safety.

"MCRD has reinforced existing hygiene requirements with a continued focus on hand-washing, enhanced facilities cleansing to ensure proper sanitation and hygiene in all areas and increased inspections of barracks, dining facilities and common areas by the command's supporting Preventative Medicine Unit," said Steven Posy, MCRD's community relations officer.

Marler said the Marine Corps was not a target of the lawsuit.

"I want to make clear that this is not a claim against the Marine Corps," he said in a statement. "We intend to hold Sodexo and the supplier of the tainted meat responsible for the devastating injuries caused to Mr. Grano and the other young service members who have contacted us."

Sodexo did not return requests for comment.

This article is written by Andrew Dyer from The San Diego Union-Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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