Families reach settlement with fair, ranch after E. coli outbreak

by: Natalie Pasquarella Updated:

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CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. - Hannah Roberts was one of more than 100 people sickened at the Cleveland County fair after an E. coli outbreak nearly two years ago.

Her family and six others reached a settlement with the fair and Circle G Ranch this week.

"It's never really over, because we think about it every single day of our lives,” said mother Tracy Roberts.

Tracy Roberts said her family will always worry about the health of their 6-year-old daughter, Hannah, after the sickness affected her kidneys.

Still, there's a sense of closure Wednesday with the settlement of a class-action lawsuit.

"It has actually accomplished what we wanted it to accomplish. It has made changes in the fair,” Tracy Roberts said. "I didn't go to the fair this year but I did hear from several people that they made changes in the animal exhibits."

Last year and again this year, people will not be able to touch the animals and hand washing stations will also be easily accessible.

That wasn’t the case when the E. coli outbreak made Hannah and 100 others sick in 2012.

A 2-year-old boy died. State health investigators said the source was the petting zoo.

Tracy Roberts said Hannah was in the hospital for weeks with a life-threatening condition and she's had to receive dialysis for kidney issues since then.

"They said that she will be a kidney patient for the rest of her life. We're down to once a year now, which is good, because we have to draw blood and all that once a year, so we're at least glad to only go once a year now,” she said.
               
The settlement's outcome is sealed. Tracy Roberts said she's happy with the deal but the spotlight should stay on the issue of safety.

"The money is not what it was about in the first place. It was about them taking notice of what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again,” she said.
 
Tracy Roberts said she and her family have no plans to return to the fair even though those proper procedures have been put in place.

Read the past coverage:

21 people sick from E. coli outbreak, officials say

E. coli outbreak grows to 81 cases

Parents of boy infected with E. coli at last year's fair planning lawsuit

Task force created to keep people safe at Cleveland Co. Fair

Cleveland Co. fair making changes to prevent E. coli contamination