Matador Restaurant E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits - Washington (2016)

In September 2016, Public Health Seattle King County (PHSKC) and the Washington Department of Health (WDOH) investigated an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that occurred among patrons of Matador Restaurant located at 2221 NW Market Street in Seattle. PHSKC received the first report of illness on August 22, 2016. They quickly learned of four other case-patients confirmed with E. coli O157:H7 who also had exposure to food from Matador. The WDOH Public Health Laboratory conducted genetic testing by Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) on isolates cultured from specimens of five ill cases. Results showed that all 5 patients were infected with a genetic strain of E. coli O157:H7 identified as PulseNet pattern combined "EXHX01.0042/EXHA26.0536." A search of PulseNet revealed that two other Washington State residents and three out-of-state residents (one each in  Colorado, Idaho, and New York) were positive for the same strain. Illness onset dates for the 10 patients ranged from August 17 to August 26, 2016. Ages ranged from 1 to 33 years (median 20 years). Six were hospitalized. Two patients developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) and no deaths were reported.

Seven of the ten patients ate at Matador between August 14 and August 19, 2016. This includes a resident of Colorado who visited Seattle and ate at Matador. The cases in New York and Idaho did not travel to Washington during the incubation period. In addition, one of the 10 cases resided in Skagit County, Washington and had no Matador exposure. The three non-Matador cases reported consuming ground beef from different sources in the week before symptom onset. No other commonalities were found.

Investigators conducted a case-control study to identify a contaminated food item consumed by Matador associated cases. Twelve controls were interviewed using a focused questionnaire. Nine of the 12 were well dining companions of ill cases. Three were identified through receipts from Matador. Investigators compared frequencies of menu items consumed by cases and controls. No menu item stood out. Investigators also compared frequencies and Odds Ratios of specific ingredients included in consumed menu items. No ingredient was statistically associated with illness.

According to public health records, Matador had been cited 10 times for food-handling practices linked to higher risks of food-borne disease since 2010. Six of those violations were for failure to keep food at the proper cold holding temperatures, which keeps bacteria growth in check, the records show. In response to the outbreak PHSKC environmental health staff conducted an on-site visit on September 9. Due to problems with cleaning and the potential for cross-contamination of food, PHSKC temporarily suspended Matador's food business permit. No ill employees were identified. Matador was allowed to reopen after all food was discarded and the facility was thoroughly cleaned. 

Marler Clark represented 5 individuals affected by the outbreak, achieving settlements covering medical expenses, wage loss, pain and suffering, and disability, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.