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Seattle University


Changing How We Eat

Written by Katherine Hedland Hansen, School of Law
November 7, 2011

Seattle University School of Law will bring William Marler, ’87, the country’s most prominent foodborne illness lawyer, to campus to discuss the importance of food safety Thursday, Nov. 17.  He will be joined by Jeff Benedict, author the Poisoned, which chronicles the Jack in the Box outbreak and Marler’s emergence as a food safety expert, at 6:30 p.m. at Pigott Auditorium.  

The event is open to the public, but registration is required.  

Marler is the managing partner of Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, and a national expert in food safety. He has represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused life-altering injury and death.  

Marler began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the historic Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, in her landmark $15.6 million settlement with the company. For the past 20 years, he has represented victims of nearly every large foodborne illness outbreak in the United States. He has filed lawsuits against such companies as Chili’s, Chi-Chi’s, Cargill, ConAgra, Dole, Excel, Golden Corral, KFC, McDonald’s, Odwalla, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Sizzler, Supervalu, Taco Bell and Wendy’s, securing more than $600,000,000 for victims of E. coli, Salmonella and other foodborne illnesses. 

In addition to his legal work, Marler advocates for a safer food supply, including petitioning the United States Department of Agriculture to better regulate pathogenic E. coli, working with nonprofit food safety and foodborne illness victims’ organizations, and helping spur the passage of the 2010-2011 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. His work has led to invitations to address local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, including testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. He is a frequent speaker and writer on topics related to foodborne illness.  

He received the 2010 NSF Food Safety Leadership Award for Education, and in 2008, he earned the Outstanding Lawyer Award from the King County Bar Association. He has also received the Public Justice Award from the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association.  

A 1987 graduate of Seattle University School of Law, he was the law school’s Lawyer in Residence in 1998 and received Seattle University’s 2011 Professional Achievement Award.  

Jeff Benedict is considered one of America's top nonfiction writers. A Sports Illustrated contributor and a Deseret News columnist, he is the best-selling author of nine books including Little Pink House, Without Reservation, and Pros and Cons. His reporting has been the basis of feature segments on "60 Minutes," ABC's "20/20," NBC's "Dateline," HBO's "Real Sports" and the Discovery Channel. His work has been published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and the Hartford Courant. He has a law degree and is a distinguished professor of English at Southern Virginia University. 

His latest book, Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat, is based on exclusive interviews with the real-life characters at the center of the drama - the families whose children were infected, the Jack in the Box executives forced to answer for the tragedy, the physicians and scientists who identified E. coli as the culprit, and the legal teams on both sides of the historic lawsuits that ensued. 

Books will be available for purchase and signing after the lecture.  

Read more about Marler.