E.Coli farm stores to face a hefty bill

Huntleys Country Stores, Samlesbury
Huntleys Country Stores, Samlesbury

A solicitor acting on behalf of some of the families affected by the E.Coli outbreak at Huntley’s Country Stores is now putting together a civil claim.

Jill Greenfield, a partner at the London-based Fieldfisher law firm, represents a number of Lancashire families affected by the outbreak.

CLAIM: Lambing Live at Huntley's Country Stores, Samlesbury

CLAIM: Lambing Live at Huntley's Country Stores, Samlesbury

Ms Greenfield acted on behalf of families affected by an E.Coli outbreak at a petting farm in Surrey in 2009.

Ten children were awarded provisional compensation in excess of £1million, meaning there could be further payouts in the future if children experience problems later in life.

The farm had previously been ruled as wholly liable for the outbreak.

Ms Greenfield is already in contact with Huntley’s insurers and is compiling and assessing all the facts to make claims on behalf of the affected children.

This has been awful for the families concerned – some were told to expect the worse.

Jill Greenfield

Huntley’s admitted a breach of duty of care in failing to assess the risks which led to the catastrophic E.coli outbreak following the three-week event in March and April 2014, in which visitors were allowed to stroke and feed lambs and watch sheep give birth.

A total of 15 people were struck down by the killer bug – 13 of them children – with nine people needing hospital treatment. A further 15 possible cases were also recorded.

Four of the children went on to develop the deadly Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome after the bug caused their kidneys to fail. The youngsters were transferred to Manchester Children’s Hospital where they were put on dialysis. Some parents were told their children may die.

Ms Greenfield said the problem with HUS was that it caused kidney damage which was unlikely to repair. Children affected may experience problems later in life when reaching puberty or adulthood.

Jill Greenfield, solicitor

Jill Greenfield, solicitor

She said: “A civil claim has been under way for a little while. I have a good relationship with the insurers and they have offered whatever support that is needed now.”

Ms Greenfield said each child would be assessed on a case by case basis and then she would enter into negotiation with Huntley’s and its representatives about damages.

She said the previous case that she had been involved with had recognised the future risks and allowed more cash to be accessed if needed.

She said: “When a child suffers HUS the damage is done.

“The kidneys don’t regenerate and there will always be a risk of kidney failure.

“This has been awful for the families concerned – some were told to expect the worse. It was a very emotional hearing in court when we heard from their own mouths how the case had affected them. It’s still very ,very raw .”

The most common protection at farm events like these is to ask anyone handling animals to wash their hands.

Ms Greenfield, a partner at Fieldfisher law firm, who is acting for a number of the families whose children became ill at the farm shop says that these types of precautions do not go nearly far enough.

“For those who think hand washing is enough, please think carefully about this. Children are at barrier height. Their shoes and clothes pick up everything around them. They drop their toys and put them and their fingers into their mouths without thinking. Hand washing is clearly sensible advice, but it is not the solution.”

Ms Greenfield, who herself has an eight-year old son, is critical of the government lack of action in protecting children who visit these type of open farm and farm events all around the country.

“We should have learnt our lesson from the Godstone Farm outbreak in 2009, which led to 93 people being affected by E Coli 0157.”

Ms Greenfield , who first becme involved in E.Coli cases in 1997, says she hopes the recent prosecution will highlight the dangers and help enforce stricter safety measures to protect families.

“One young girl we are representing now lives knowing she carries a life-long risk of renal failure. A fun day out at the farm is not meant to end like this. “

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