CHICAGO – Marler Clark has settled the claims of 49 individuals who were infected with Salmonella after eating at the Vernon Hills Chili’s Grill & Bar in late June and early July of 2003. Attorneys Denis Stearns and William Marler negotiated the settlements for all of Marler Clark’s clients, including Bill and Jennifer Lussow, Kimberly Fields, Angela Bond, Matt and Anna Miller, Elizabeth Pusch, and Claude McDermott, each of whom had previously filed suit against Brinker Restaurant Corporation, the owner and operator of the Chili’s restaurant. These lawsuits, along with a class action lawsuit that sought punitive damages on behalf of all outbreak victims, will be dismissed as part of the settlement. The amount of the settlement is confidential.
“We were far along in the process of preparing these cases for trial when settlement discussions finally seemed to turn serious,” said Marler Clark partner Denis Stearns. “We believed strongly in our case, and the importance of the point we were trying to make about food safety and corporate responsibility. This was a case my partners and I really wanted to take to trial. But when finally faced with the chance to not only fully compensate our clients, but to do so in a way that showed the clients that, ‘We really did send a message with this one’—that was something we had to recommend accepting.”
The Lake County Health Department’s outbreak investigation revealed that the Vernon Hills Chili’s had been under operation despite having a broken dish-machine and a lack of hot water for at least one day, and a lack of any water at all during most of the lunch-rush one day when infected food workers were preparing and serving food to patrons. The Lake County Health Department reported that 305 Chili’s patrons reported having symptoms of Salmonella infection that could be traced to Chili’s.
Among other things, the lawsuits filed had alleged that Chili’s “acted in a grossly negligent manner” and that “wanton and willful acts were committed with a conscious and reckless indifference to existing circumstances and conditions, and to the rights and safety of others, with such acts including, but not limited to, preparing and serving food to the public despite having a broken dish-washing machine without sanitizer in it, having no hot water available for employees to wash their hands on one day, and no water at all for part of a second day. Such acts were also violations of the law.”
“In a way it is too bad that the amount of the settlement is confidential,” added Bill Marler. “I think that more than most settlements we have achieved in the past, this one would really have made the restaurant industry sit up and take notice.”
BACKGROUND: The attorneys at Marler Clark have extensive experience representing victims of Salmonella infections. The firm has successfully represented victims of Salmonella poisoning related to contaminated sprouts, cantaloupe, cereal, orange juice, and other foods. The firm represented victims against Sun Orchard after the company’s orange juice was tied to a salmonella outbreak. Marler Clark also settled the claims of victims who ate Salmonella-tainted pastries at the black Forrest Bakery in Clinton Township, Michigan, and seventy victims of Salmonella poisoning at a country club in Rochester, New York, in 2002, and has successfully represented over 1,000 victims of Salmonella poisoning in several other states.
See www.salmonellalitigation.com and www.about-salmonella.com.
More about the Chili's Salmonella outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.