SARASOTA, FL (WFLA) — A lawsuit was filed against Sarasota’s Big Olaf Creamery this week after the death of a 79-year-old woman from Illinois, court documents show.
According to the wrongful death suit filed on Tuesday in the United States District Court Middle District of Florida’s Tampa division, Mary Billman traveled to Sarasota in January and ate ice cream at Big Olaf Creamery. The lawsuit, filed by the Food Safety law firm, says Billman died of listeria days after eating the dairy product.
“Unfortunately she got sick relatively quickly. She was in the early – three, four days – she was hospitalized within days and then passed of brain swelling shortly thereafter,” Attorney Bill Marler said.
Marler has represented listeria victims for more than 25 years and says Big Olaf Creamery caused Billman’s death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 23 illnesses, 22 hospitalizations and one death linked to the Big Olaf Creamery listeria outbreak.
“The identical genetic bacteria in each of them that was found in their blood or their spinal fluid is exactly the same one, and the only way that happens is if they were all infected by the same bug from the same place,” Marler said.
Big Olaf released a statement over the weekend, saying it was cooperating with state and federal health officials.
“For now it is only speculation as it is an ongoing investigation, our brand has not been confirmed to be linked to these cases, I am not sure why only Big Olaf is being mentioned and targeted,” the company wrote on Facebook. The post added, “We have been transparent and have answered all their questions and provided them with all the information requested from us, as the health and well being of the public is our first priority.”