A lawyer with serious mojo: Bill Marler, food safety champion

14 Aug 23

In the realm of food safety advocacy, few names hold as much weight as Bill Marler. With a formidable track record of holding food producers accountable and championing reform, Marler has solidified his position as a driving force in the fight against foodborne illnesses, working to ensure the health and safety of our food supply, in the US and around the world.

Marler's transformation to food safety champion began in the early 1990s, when he represented victims of the infamous Jack in the Box hamburger E. coli outbreak.  Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak that Changed the Way Americans Eat, by best-selling author Jeff Benedict, chronicles the Jack in the Box outbreak and the rise of Bill Marler as a food safety attorney. The book is now the basis of a Netflix documentary of the same name.

From Bill's website bio:

An accomplished attorney and national expert in food safety, William (Bill) Marler has become the most prominent foodborne illness lawyer in America and a major force in food policy in the U.S. and around the world. Over the last 30 years, Marler Clark, Inc., P.S., The Food Safety Law Firm, has represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused life altering injury and even death.

Bill 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 last 30 years, Bill has represented victims of every large foodborne illness outbreak in the United States and has consulted on cases in Europe, Asia and Africa. He has filed lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, Chili’s, Chi-Chi’s, Chipotle, ConAgra, Dole, Excel, Golden Corral, KFC, McDonald’s, Odwalla, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Sizzler, Supervalu, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. Through his work, he has secured over $850,000,000 for victims of E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Hepatitis and other foodborne illnesses.

Among the most notable cases he has litigated, Bill counts those of nineteen-year-old dancer Stephanie Smith, who was sickened by an E. coli-contaminated hamburger that left her brain damaged and paralyzed, and Linda Rivera, a fifty-seven-year-old mother of six from Nevada, who was hospitalized for over 2 years after she was stricken with what her doctor described as “the most severe multi-organ [bowel, kidney, brain, lung, gall bladder, and pancreas] case of E. coli mediated [hemolytic uremic syndrome] I have seen in my extensive experience.”

Bill's advocacy for a safer food supply includes 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.