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More plaintiffs seek punitive damages in lawsuit against airline caterer

SEATTLE – The Marler Clark law firm filed a second lawsuit against Gate Gourmet, the airline caterer responsible for an August, 2004 Shigella outbreak among passengers on outbound flights departing from Honolulu Airport. The complaint, which was filed Wednesday in United States District Court for the District of Hawaii (Case number CV05-00401 ACK LEK), was filed on behalf of seven more victims of the outbreak.

According to the Hawaii Department of Health, travelers aboard flights departing Honolulu for destinations in Japan, Australia, American Samoa, and twenty-two U.S. states became ill with a genetically indistinguishable strain of Shigella. The first complaint filed by Marler Clark was on behalf of a Florida resident, while the amended complaint includes plaintiffs from Michigan, Maryland, California, South Dakota, and Washington State. All plaintiffs were aboard one of three flights that departed Honolulu for the US mainland on August 22 or 23, 2004.

“I must commend the health department for their efforts in this investigation. Given the widespread nature of this outbreak, they did a tremendous job of identifying the outbreak in the first place, then tracing it back to a source,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm nationally recognized for the successful representation of victims of foodborne illness.

Attorneys ask the Court to award plaintiffs punitive damages to “deter [Gate Gourmet] from similar conduct in the future.” An April, 2004 inspection by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found numerous health code violations at the Gate Gourmet Honolulu facility that serviced airlines at Honolulu Airport. See

“The FDA noted a host of problems at Gate Gourmet when investigators inspected the Honolulu facility in April. It’s only right that the company is punished for continuing to operate with a conscious disregard for the health of consumers,” Marler added. “Punitive damages would be the civil justice system’s way of punishing Gate Gourmet for not acting to meet health codes and for having knowledge that its products could lead to illness.”

Documents Marler Clark obtained from the Minnesota Department of Health indicate that genetically indistinguishable Shigella infections were found in residents of California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington State.


BACKGROUND: Marler Clark ( is a Seattle law firm dedicated to representing victims of foodborne illness outbreaks. The firm has represented thousands of people sickened by E. coli, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, Norovirus, Shigella, Campylobacter or Listeria since 1993 when William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box.

For more information on Shigella, visit the Marler Clark sponsored Web site about Shigella.

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