The lawsuit, filed in Monroe County Court on Thursday, says that although Brook-Lea knew one or more of its food handlers was ill, the Gates club did not report it to the Monroe County Health Department and did nothing to prevent the workers from contaminating food.
Brook-Lea’s attorney, Jeffrey Wilkens, said he could not comment on specific allegations in the lawsuit but added: “The club made its efforts to meet all the requirements of the county Department of Health and cooperated closely with them. It was a problem and the club has dealt with it responsibly.”
A total of 106 people contracted salmonella enteritidis from eating Brook-Lea food in June and July. The bacteria can be found in eggs and raw meat, but it can also be transferred through feces.
Bruce Clark, a partner in the Seattle law firm that is representing the victims, said a worker or workers were infected with salmonella and then likely passed on the bacteria by not washing hands properly.
A person infected with salmonella bacteria gets sick 12 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food. A fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea follow, with hospitalization necessary for those who become severely dehydrated. The illness lasts four to seven days, and can be treated with antibiotics.
One person was hospitalized in the Brook-Lea case.
The Monroe County Health Department investigated the outbreak, and drew up a list of requirements in order to keep the kitchen open.
The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages between $10,000 and $100,000 for each person, as well as $10,000 in punitive damages for each person.
Clark said that many of his clients did not want to file a lawsuit.
However, Brook-Lea’s insurance company, One Beacon Group, did not offer nearly enough to compensate the victims, Clark said.
“There was a complete indifference by the insurance company to what my clients went through,” Clark said.
“Sometimes, the way you get someone’s attention is to file a lawsuit.”