Judge rules Fresno fair didn't cause infection

Source of Article:  http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/1464427.html


Published online on Wednesday, Jun. 10, 2009

A Fresno County judge will decide soon whether The Big Fresno Fair should be held liable for the illness a 2-year-old Fresno girl suffered after visiting the fair's petting zoo nearly four years ago.

Superior Court Judge Donald Black said in his tentative ruling Wednesday that the fair did not cause Angela Malos to get an E. coli infection. Several other children did become infected with E. coli at the fair, a medical expert said, according to court records.

On Wednesday, Angela's lawyer, Warren Paboojian, tried to change the judge's mind.

"In the interest of justice, this case has to go to trial," Paboojian said. "She's not doing well."

In May 2006, Angela's parents, John Malos and Maria Batista, sued the fair and the Great American Petting Zoo, saying Angela became infected with E. coli after she attended the fair with her family in October 2005.

John Malos is a former Fresno television anchorman. He is no longer married to Batista.

In his tentative ruling, Black dismissed the family's claims after defense medical expert Dr. William Feldman said other children visiting the fair got sick from a strain of E. coli, but Angela tested negative for E. coli.

Angela visited the fair's petting zoo on Oct. 13, 2005, but did not start showing symptoms until Nov. 1 or 2. The incubation period for E. coli is three to 10 days, with the most cases occurring within three to four days, Feldman said.

Because Angela didn't have symptoms for 19 days, Feldman concluded that Angela could not have contracted E. coli at the fair.

But Paboojian told Black that his expert, Dr. Arthur Reingold, said the girl became infected from her 4-year-brother, Alexander, who also went to the fair's petting zoo and became sick.

According to Paboojian, Angela and her 4-year-old brother, Alexander, visited the petting zoo on Oct. 13, 2005. The next day, Alexander came down with watery diarrhea -- a symptom of E. coli, Reingold said.

Because E. coli can be spread from person to person, Reingold concluded that "it is more probable than not that [Angela] acquired E. coli from her brother ... and that he acquired the disease from his visit to the fair."

Angela experienced cramping, vomiting and diarrhea and tested positive for shiga toxin II, which is commonly caused by infection from E. coli, Reingold said.

Attorney James Weakley, who represents the fair, however, argued that Reingold's opinion lacked evidence. Weakley said Alexander never tested positive for E. coli, and that his review of the children's medical records show that Alexander started having diarrhea two days before he went to the petting zoo.

But Paboojian contended that Alexander started having diarrhea after visiting the fair.

Paboojian also said Angela, who is now 6, still suffers.

"She's got neurological deficits," he said.

A county investigation of the E. coli outbreak was unable to pinpoint the infection's source but found that two of the six children infected with E. coli had visited the petting zoo. All six children, however, visited the livestock pavilion and animal birthing center, the county's report said.

The county's investigation also found that The Big Fresno Fair, the state's fifth largest, followed recommendations of the National Association of Public Health Veterinarians by removing feces properly and making sinks equipped with sanitizing materials available to visitors with proper signs.



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