SPOKANE, WASH. -- A class action lawsuit was filed today in Spokane County Superior Court against a Carl’s Jr. hamburger franchise implicated in the recent Hepatitis A outbreak in the Spokane area by the Seattle law firm Marler Clark. The named plaintiff is Melbourne Munter. Mr. Munter ate a sandwich purchased at the Carl’s Jr. located at 707 W 3rd Avenue, Spokane, WA in late January 2000. According to William Marler, at partner at the firm“Mr. Munter is still very ill. He still suffers from severe nausea and diarrhea. He received medical treatment at Deaconess and has been unable to work.”
The class action will represent both people directly sickened and those who were forced to take immune globulin shots.
According to the Spokane Regional Health District, approximately 1300 doses of immune globulin (IG) treatment have been administered in the county since the initial exposure in late-January/early-February of this year. Additionally, there have been more than 70 treatments administered in the Coeur d'Alene, ID area. An investigation by the Spokane Regional Health District determined the likely source of the outbreak to be the Carl’s Jr. franchise noted above (see release from the Spokane Regional Health District), and that the infection was spread by an infected individual who handled vegetable garnishes at the franchise. “Unfortunately, the number of victims is likely to rise because the incubation period can be several weeks and there is a substantial risk of person-to-person exposure,” said William Marler.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that is caused by the Hepatitis A virus. The virus is most commonly spread through contact with human stool. Symptoms include nausea, cramping, fatigue and fever. In young children these symptoms can appear flu-like, but in some cases do not appear at all. Symptoms most often begin two to six weeks after exposure and can last up to two weeks. Preventative treatment is only effective when administered within 14 days of exposure to the virus. After 14 days there is no treatment. However, Hepatitis A can be prevented by vaccination prior to exposure.
The CDC reports that about 22,700 cases of Hepatitis A occur in the United States annually. Contamination of foods by infected workers in food processing and restaurants is a common source of outbreaks. Prevention is best done through washing hands with soap and warm running water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
Marler Clark has been involved in hundreds of cases involving foodborne bacteria. These have included the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak; the 1996 Odwalla E. coli outbreak; the 1998 Malt-O-Meal Salmonella outbreak; the 1998 Finley School District E. coli outbreak in the Tri-Cities, Washington; the 1999 Sun Orchard orange juice Salmonella outbreak; and the 1999 Subway Sandwich Hepatitis A outbreak.
More about the Carl's Jr. hepatitis A outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.