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Billerica woman who suffered miscarriage after listeria infection sues Florida ice cream maker

A Billerica woman who suffered a miscarriage after she ate ice cream contaminated with listeria during a visit to Florida is suing the ice cream maker and vendor, saying she has experienced physical and mental pain, lost wages, and medical expenses, according to court records.

Kristen Hopkins and her husband, Frank Imbruglia, filed a lawsuit last month in Pinellas County Circuit Court against Big Olaf Creamery LLC, a Sarasota ice cream manufacturer whose product is connected to at least 23 Listeria monocytogenes cases this year, including one that ended in the patient’s death, court documents show.

The suit also names Mega Ammos LLC, which operates Beverly’s Ice Cream in Clearwater Beach, Fla., where Hopkins says she was served the contaminated confection, court records show.


Hopkins and Imbruglia’s attorney and officials at Big Olaf Creamery and Mega Ammos did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. There were no attorneys listed for Big Olaf or Mega Ammos in court records.

The lawsuit was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Hopkins and Imbruglia traveled with their 7-month-old and 5-year-old daughters to a family wedding in Florida on May 12, when Hopkins was 11 weeks pregnant, and told relatives of the pregnancy, according to the lawsuit.

During their Florida visit, the family stayed at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa , which contains Beverly’s Ice Cream, the documents say.

Beverly’s exclusively sold Big Olaf Creamery products, though the “store represented that the ice cream it sold was produced in-house and was a safe and wholesome product,” Hopkins and Imbruglia allege.

Twice during their visit, the family ate ice cream bought at Beverly’s, the suit says.

The family returned to Massachusetts on May 17, and soon afterward Hopkins and Imbruglia were told she was carrying a healthy male fetus, documents say. They then told their friends they were having a baby.


But by May 31, Hopkins had begun to experience persistent diarrhea and mild stomach cramps, which worsened in the coming days, the lawsuit says. By June 11, she had an intense headache, and when she awoke pale and shivering the next day, Imbruglia drove her to a nearby hospital, where they were told the fetus had died, according to the documents.

Hopkins. who was experiencing convulsions and intense pain in her head and neck, was then sent to a larger hospital, where a doctor removed the fetus, the suit says.

Hopkins was placed in the hospital’s intensive care unit and treated with strong antibiotics. Doctors told Hopkins “that her situation was critical and that she may require a hysterectomy,” according to the lawsuit. She remained in the hospital five days “in horrific physical and emotional pain” and was sent home with more intravenous antibiotics, the suit says.

A blood culture confirmed that Hopkins was positive for Listeria monocytogenes, and later testing determined that it matched an outbreak in Florida that was connected to Big Olaf Creamery, the documents say.

On July 13, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a recall of ice cream from Big Olaf following the finding of listeria in the product, saying 23 people in 10 states had been sickened, all but one had been hospitalized, and one person had died. The recall noted that pregnant people, as well as those age 65 and over, and people with weakened immune systems were at elevated risk of severe illness.


Officials at Big Olaf said in a statement on July 3, prior to the recall, that it had not yet been proved that the company’s ice cream was linked to the listeria outbreak and said that Big Olaf was cooperating with Florida and federal officials investigating the outbreak.

Hopkins remains physically weakened and “emotionally distraught over the traumatic loss of her baby,” while she and Imbruglia worry that the infection and miscarriage may have affected her ability to become pregnant again, according to the documents.

The lawsuit says Hopkins and Imbruglia have suffered financial damages in excess of $30,000 and seeks past and future money damages, compensation for “pain and suffering, loss of the ability to lead a normal life, humiliation and embarrassment,” and court costs.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.