First Salmonella lawsuit filed against Chili's


CHICAGO — Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm nationally known for successful representation of foodborne illness victims, today filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jennifer and William Lussow in Federal Court against Chili’s Restaurants and its parent company, Brinker International. The lawsuit arises from the Salmonella outbreak at the Vernon Hills Chili’s in Northern Illinois that sickened over 100 people. The outbreak is believed to be linked to an infected employee working at the restaurant, and the fact that Chili’s violated food safety regulations by continuing to operate despite not having water.

“We have been retained by over twenty victims from this outbreak so far,” said Denis Stearns, a partner in Marler Clark. “One client has said that he tried to order water at the restaurant but his server couldn’t serve it to him because the restaurant had no water. How were employees supposed to be practicing proper hand-washing if they didn’t have water? It’s ridiculous.”

Stearns added, “It’s appalling that the Lake County health department has taken a ho-hum, slap-on-the-wrist attitude about Chili’s decision to operate without running water. Is the public supposed to be reassured by Chili’s promise to not do it again? What about the ridiculous failure of common-sense that led a restaurant manager to stay open even though none of the employees could wash their hands? Maybe the manager’s bonus was on the line because it was month-end and they needed to hit sales-figures. Who knows? But with the filing of this lawsuit, we are certainly going to find out.”

This is not the first time Chili’s has had a Salmonella outbreak. A Chili’s in Fort Smith, Arkansas was implicated in an outbreak in July of 2000.

Marler Clark currently represents victims who were infected after eating at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital cafeteria in June, an outbreak that sickened over 100 people. The firm represented 70 victims of Salmonella poisoning at a country club in Rochester, New York last summer, and settled the claims of victims who ate Salmonella-tainted pastries at Black Forrest bakery in Clinton Township, Michigan in March of 2002. Both settlements were for confidential sums. The firm represented victims against Sun Orchard after the company’s orange juice was tied to a Salmonella outbreak in 1999. The cases settled for $1.8 million. The firm has successfully represented over 1,000 victims of Salmonella poisoning in several other states.

Jennifer Lussow, who was a lunch customer at the Chili’s in Vernon Hills on June 26, became ill with nausea and diarrhea about 36 hours after eating at the restaurant. According to the lawsuit, her symptoms worsened, eventually requiring hospitalization. She is still hospitalized, and her future is uncertain. The lawsuit alleges that her damages are at least $75,000.

For more information on Salmonella, visit www.about-salmonella.com or www.foodborneillness.com, sites sponsored by the Marler Clark attorneys.

More about the Chili's Salmonella outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.