Arrow-right Camera
News >  Spokane

Suit Against Ice Cream Maker Links Illness To Kidney Failure

A Spokane family plans to file a lawsuit today against an ice cream maker linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak, saying the illness caused their daughter’s kidney failure.

Courteney Burrill, 14, an East Valley Junior High School student, ended up having a kidney transplant and hasn’t been able to return to school since September, said Mike McMahon, the family’s attorney.

Before becoming ill, Burrill ate Schwan’s vanilla ice cream from a supply that later tested positive for salmonella, said McMahon.

“She was continually dehydrated to the point where her kidneys shut down,” he said. “She was on dialysis.”

McMahon plans to file the complaint today in Spokane County Superior Court on behalf of the girl and her parents, Belinda and James Burrill.

Belinda Burrill also suffered medical complications after giving up a kidney for her daughter, according to the lawsuit.

A Schwan’s representative could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Federal officials believe Schwan’s ice cream was contaminated by mix carried in tanker trucks that had also carried raw eggs. Thousands of customers who said they got sick agreed not to sue and instead accepted gift certificates and payments of $160 from Schwan’s Sales Enterprises Inc.

Common symptoms of salmonella poisoning are nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and headaches.

Occasionally, kidney failure can result.

“It is possible,” said Dr. Curtis G. Wickre, medical director of the Sacred Heart Medical Center’s kidney center. “It would be very unusual. It’s not something that we see commonly.”

James Burrill also fell ill after eating from the same ice cream container, but he recovered without long-term effects, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit claims Schwan’s failed to exercise reasonable care in the manufacture and distribution of ice cream.

Courteney Burrill won’t be able to participate in some physical activities, has missed significant schooling and will ultimately incur more than $1 million in medical bills, the lawsuit states.

Doctors aren’t sure whether the transplant, which was performed Jan. 19, will be successful, McMahon said.

Belinda Burrill, who lost a great deal of blood during the surgery, also has significant medical expenses, he said.