Family sues Minnesota State Fair after boy got E. coli, suffered kidney damage

The boy suffered permanent damage after the outbreak at the Miracle of Birth Center.
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The boy, pictured at the Miracle of Birth Center.

The boy, pictured at the Miracle of Birth Center.

The family of a boy who contracted E. coli in an outbreak at the Minnesota State Fair last year is suing, saying he has since suffered permanent kidney damage.

State health officials said in September that 11 cases of E. coli had been traced back to people feeding animals at the Miracle of Birth Center.

Six of those people were hospitalized, and one of them contracted hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal complication of E. coli.

That patient was the then 4-year-old son of Christina VonderHaar, who touched several of the animals during their visit to the fair on Aug. 29.

He spent 9 days in Children's Hospital in Minneapolis after contracting E. coli and subsequently HUS, and according to a lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court, he "experienced permanent physical damage to his kidneys and other bodily organs."

"As a direct and proximate result of [the boy's] infection, and resulting HUS, he will, more likely than not, experience emotional, behavioral and cognitive deficits for the remainder of his life," the suit continues.

It also notes his family has and will continue to incur significant medical expenses as a result of his condition.

The VonderHaar family is suing the Minnesota State Agricultural Society, which it says had a duty of reasonable care to the boy and all visitors to the fair, and "knew or reasonably should have known of the risk of E. coli ... infections through secondary transmission and contact."

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The suit alleges it failed its duty of care by "failing to have proper procedures and proper facilities for maintaining sanitary conditions," citing 10 procedural failures in connection with the Miracle of Birth Center.

These include failing to design animal pens in a way that minimizes the risk of animal contact, contrary to CDC recommendations, failing to warn visitors fully of the risks and dangers, failure to clean and disinfect animal-human interaction areas that could be contaminated with fecal matter, and failure to provide sufficient hand-washing stations.

The suit seeks more than $50,000 in damages. A spokesperson for the State Fair told the Pioneer Press it couldn't comment on pending litigation.

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