Lawsuit filed in E. coli outbreak tied to Lake Stevens restaurant


LAKE STEVENS – The day after health officials linked an E. coli outbreak to a Lake Stevens Mexican restaurant, the parents of a Snohomish County girl have filed a lawsuit against Ixtapa restaurant alleging that their daughter became severely ill after eating at the restaurant.

The Snohomish Health District announced Tuesday that the Lake Stevens eatery is believed to be the source of 13 of 17 recent local cases of E. coli. An investigation into the outbreak indicated people likely were exposed to the bacteria at the restaurant, health officials said.

Health officials are continuing to investigate the outbreak's cause. The restaurant voluntarily closed while authorities try to pinpoint the cause of the outbreak.

Ray and Allison Riojas blame their elementary school-aged daughter’s bout with the bacteria on the restaurant, according to a lawsuit filed this morning in Snohomish County Superior Court.

The family dined at the restaurant Oct. 11. Their daughter ate chips, salsa, guacamole, a chicken enchilada, rice and beans, attorney Drew Falkenstein wrote in the lawsuit.

The girl lost her appetite and was sent home from school Oct. 14. She became increasing ill with diarrhea.

Her mother took her to the emergency room at Providence Everett Medical Center twice on Oct. 16. The girl was treated for dehydration and pain and released both times. Her symptoms worsened and she was rushed again to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital in Seattle, where she began to vomit blood, according to the lawsuit.

She tested positive for the same strain of E. coli associated with the outbreak at Ixtapa, Falkenstein wrote in the court documents.

The girl lost nine pounds and consumed nothing but ice chips and water for nine days. She was finally able to eat a bagel and English muffin yesterday, according to the attorney.

“She was a very sick girl,” Falkenstein said. “She continues to recover and is very weak.”

The girl is too weak to walk up stairs at her family home and must be carried by her parents, he said. She has not returned to school.

Falkenstein is an attorney with Marler Clark, a Seattle law firm that has represented thousands of people in food poisoning cases, including the E. coli outbreak connected to Jack in the Box in 1993.

The firm is representing four other families in the Snohomish County outbreak. More lawsuits are expected to be filed in connection with outbreak, Falkenstein said