E. coli exposure alleged in O.C. suit

Times Staff Writer

A woman who said she ate at a Souplantation in Lake Forest during the recent E. coli outbreak has sued the company for allegedly serving contaminated fare that caused her kidneys to fail.

Alice Secrist, 72, was hospitalized April 3 at Irvine Regional Hospital and Medical Center with abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, dehydration and fatigue, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Orange County Superior Court.

Secrist, who needed dialysis, did not test positive for the bacteria. Her lawyer, Andy Weisbecker, said that was because she was taking antibiotics before she was hospitalized. Orange County health officials said it is possible to be infected with E. coli yet not test positive.

Secrist’s doctors “told her she was suffering from a classic case of E. coli,” said Weisbecker, an attorney with the Seattle firm Marler Clark, which specializes in food-borne-illness cases. Secrist is asking for unspecified compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, legal fees and other damages.


A Souplantation spokeswoman said she had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on its allegations.

Fourteen customers and one employee who ate at the restaurant on Towne Center Drive between March 23 and 25 have tested positive for the bacteria, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. Secrist is not on the agency’s list.

Three of the listed diners were hospitalized, including a 12-year-old girl who was released last week from Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange. The outbreak’s source has not been pinpointed.

The Lake Forest Souplantation has been closed since April 6. It can reopen only after its employees are screened for the bacteria, the restaurant is sanitized and its food supply restocked, health officials said.


Secrist, who according to voting records lives in Rancho Santa Margarita, ate at the restaurant’s salad bar on March 23 with a friend, Weisbecker said. A few days later, she went to a clinic with intense abdominal cramping and was prescribed antibiotics. Still feeling ill, Secrist returned to a doctor, who sent her to a hospital. She was released in recent days and “her digestive system will be completely in turmoil for at least a few months,” Weisbecker said.