A young woman feeds goats at the San Diego County Fair in 2019. A sign behind her reads: “Please wash hands when exiting animal area.” Photo by Ken Stone

Seven families who say they were affected by the fatal 2019 E. coli outbreak linked to the San Diego County Fair filed a lawsuit Friday against fair operators.

Jedediah Cabezuela, 2, died as a result of E. coli poisoning connected to the fair’s animal exhibits, according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges the 22nd District Agricultural Association was negligent in operating those exhibits and the fair’s petting zoo.

They were among several atttactions featured at the event at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The fair, which ran from May 31 to July 4, closed its animal exhibits soon after the toddler’s  June 24 death.

Officials from the 22nd District Agricultural Association could not immediately be reached for comment.

The suit states that all seven families visited the fairgrounds between June 8 and June 22. They approached areas “near the presence of animals, such as the petting zoo, animal exhibits and/or livestock barns.”

Members of each family then developed symptoms such as fever, stomach cramping, vomiting and diarrhea. Doctors diagnosed them with STEC, “a shiga-toxin producing strain of E. coli O157:H7,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges fair operators “encouraged and allowed its patrons, including plaintiffs, to walk through and interact with animals in the exhibits,” while failing to warn patrons of the “known risks.”

The suit also faults fair organizers for allegedly failing to provide adequate hand-washing stations, or to inspect, clean, maintain and disinfect the fairgrounds. Nor attorneys alleged, did they properly inspect or screen animals featured at the fair, or adequately train employees to guard against the risk of infection.

The outbreak remains under investigation by the Health and Human Services Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, according to the suit.

– City News Service

Show comments