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Brinker settles Chili's Salmonella cases

Lawsuits over Illinois food poisoning dropped after record agreement

Karen Robinson-Jacobs, The Dallas Morning News

August 11, 2004

Brinker International has reached a settlement with nearly 50 diners sickened with salmonella at a Chili's Grill & Bar restaurant in Illinois, an attorney in the case said Wednesday.

Terms were confidential, but the amounts were the highest ever secured by Marler Clark LLP, said Denis Stearns, the attorney who handled the cases for the Seattle-based law firm.

"We're really happy with the results," said Mr. Stearns, whose firm specializes in cases involving food-borne illness.

"This is the best settlement that we've ever obtained in a [salmonella] case."

Originally, the firm filed lawsuits on behalf of seven plaintiffs. But it represented a total of 49 in the settlement agreement. That included an additional 42 victims, who would have been potential members of a class-action suit the law firm was pursuing. All of the suits will be dropped as a result of the agreement.

Louis Adams, a spokesman for Brinker, which owns the Chili's brand, said the company was "pleased that this portion of ... [the case] is behind us."

Twenty-nine workers and 276 patrons suffered stomach ailments and flu-like symptoms after eating or working at the restaurant in Vernon Hills, Ill., between June 23 and July 1, 2003.

"We've been working diligently all along to resolve this matter," Mr. Adams said.

Officials with the Lake County, Ill., Health Department said a dishwashing sanitizer stopped working several days before the outbreak.

The restaurant also continued to operate after losing first its hot water and then all water, the Health Department said.


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