Judge OKs settlement for hepatitis exposure

The $200 payments will be distributed to people who were inoculated after eating at a D'Angelo Sandwich shop where a food worker had the disease.

SWANSEA -- More than 1,300 people will receive $200 compensation for their potential exposure to hepatitis that was spread by a D'Angelo Sandwich shops employee during fall 2001.

Each of the 1,347 people were among some 1,900 who received immunization shots during the outbreak of hepatitis A.

And late last year, each of them signed up for compensation payments negotiated by a Somerset lawyer who filed a class-action lawsuit against D'Angelo on behalf of Frank R. Lucca, of Swansea, and everyone else who was forced to seek immunization.

The company agreed to make the payments, totaling $270,000, in a settlement that was approved last week in Fall River Superior Court.

"The proposed settlement ... is fair, adequate and reasonable. ..." Judge Robert J. Kane ruled on Thursday.

Lucca's wife was among the 53 people who contracted hepatitis during the outbreak, according to his lawyer, Steven P. Sabra.

Hepatitis A is the mildest type of hepatitis infection and is seldom fatal. Its symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and jaundice.

The illness can be spread by food workers who do not practice good bathroom hygiene.

The payments are for people who were forced to have the shots after they:

Consumed contaminated food at D'Angelo shops in Swansea or Seekonk.

Consumed food at Rudy's Country Store, where two employees, who contracted hepatitis A after eating food from D'Angelo's, were working with food between Nov. 5 and Nov. 23.

Were exposed to other people who contracted hepatitis after exposure at either restaurant.

The $200 payments will be disbursed 10 days after the appeals phase of the case, according to the settlement, which does not specify a date.

Meanwhile, Sabra and another lawyer, Marler Clark, will receive $45,000 for their work on the case.

A portion of that money, said Sabra, will be donated to a scholarship fund in the Swansea area.