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Family sues eatery over salmonella

Action seeks $1 million from restaurant operator

Tammie Smith, Times-Dispatch

Apr 28, 2001

A Seattle law firm that has won million-dollar judgments in a number of food-borne illness cases has sued on behalf of a Virginia family whose members say they got sick after eating food bought at Linh's Bakery and Deli in the West End.

As many as 250 people reported getting sick in the outbreak that happened around the weekend of April 7 and that health officials blame on salmonella contamination from a sandwich spread made with raw eggs.

Marler Clark, a law firm working with the Arlington offices of Ward & Klein, filed the suit Thursday in Henrico County Circuit Court on behalf of a Palmyra family.

The suit maintains that Brandon Cheung, 3; Stanley K. Chan, 21; Ho K. Cheung, 19; and Yee L. Cheung, 88, all became sick after eating food bought at the restaurant April 7.

Also named as plaintiffs are Fai Cheung and Sherry Chan, parents of Brandon Cheung, 3, who say they suffered emotional distress over their son's illness.

The suit asks LTL Enterprises Inc., which operates Linh's, at 6312 Rigsby Road, for a minimum $1 million in damages.

Linh T. La, listed on county records as the owner, declined to comment on the suit when reached by telephone.

Henrico County health officials pulled Linh's food-service permit after dozens of people filled hospital emergency rooms the weekend of April 7 complaining of diarrhea, chills, nausea and stomach pains. At least 25 people were hospitalized in the outbreak. The lawsuit says Yee Cheung was admitted to Martha Jefferson Hospital for extensive dehydration and pain.

State lab tests showed the source to be salmonella contamination. County health officials said employees at the business mixed raw eggs and vegetable oil to make a mayonnaiselike spread that was put on sandwiches. Cultures from at least 30 people showed salmonella infection.

Because of the risk of salmonella contamination, state regulations prohibit restaurants from using raw eggs in foods that will not be cooked before being served. Cooking usually kills the bacteria.

In the suit, Fai Cheung, a self-employed restaurant operator, also maintains he suffered financial losses after he was unable to work at his Fluvanna County restaurant briefly while health officials waited for tests on cultures taken from him. Those tests eventually came back negative for salmonella.

"There were some people who became ill who were restaurant workers," said Dr. Curtis W. Thorpe, Henrico County health director. "We may have told them they could not return to work until their cultures came back negative. We are just trying to prevent it from spreading to other restaurants."

Salmonella infection is usually self-limiting with no serious complications in most instances, but can be more serious in young children and the elderly. The suit maintains that Yee Cheung possibly faces long-term kidney damage.

Linh's remains closed until cleared by the Henrico County Health Department to re-open.

"We have been going in almost every day," Thorpe said. "They have cleaned the restaurant up. We helped them clean the restaurant up and we helped them discard food. We had to culture some of the surfaces of the restaurant to make sure there was no salmonella." Test results on the cultures are expected next week.

Marler Clark has represented numerous clients in food-borne illness cases, including a Ohio woman who said she got sick after eating E. coli O157:H7-tainted cole slaw bought at a fast-food restaurant and 29 people who say they got Hepatitis A after eating food fixed at a submarine sandwich shop.

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