Two more E. coli lawsuits were filed this morning against Ixtapa Bajaras, Inc., d/b/a the Ixtapa Family Mexican Restaurant, bringing the current total to seven. The restaurant, located at 301 91st Avenue NE in Lake Stevens, was the source of a 2008 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that is believed to have sickened as many as 64 people, according an investigation by the Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH) and Snohomish County Health Department (SCHD). The lawsuits were filed by Marler Clark in the Superior Court of the State of Washington in and for the County of Snohomish on behalf of two restaurant patrons who ate at the restaurant in October 2008.
The lawsuit alleges that insanitary conditions and practices caused the outbreak, citing the following email communication from investigating health officials:
We learned that they don’t wear gloves all the time . Primarily the cooks have bhc [bare-handed-contact] at night when there is less chance someone will catch them without gloves. Also, the wait staff use bare hands on tortillas both before and after they are warmed in the steamer. They use a scoop to put chips in a basket but bare hands assist this process*** They do not regularly use sanitizer and they don’t know how to check the concentration of the sanitizer. We found buckets without sanitizer and many wiping cloths without sanitizer too. This indicates a lack of ability to properly clean and sanitize work areas. The cutting boards and wiping cloths are all stained and or very dirty. Their outer clothing and dry towels are frequently used for hand cleaning as they too are very dirty with food debris. The stains are from both raw meat and other foods indicating a lack of cross contamination control.
The plaintiffs in the cases are Robert Perasso and Brett Blankenship (filing with his wife, Carrie), both of whom suffered severe illnesses requiring substantial medical treatment, missed work, and the need for ongoing treatment.