On January 24, 2001, the Skagit County Health Department (SCHD) recorded a significant increase in the number of cases of shigellosis in the county, and after a preliminary investigation recorded a total of eight culture-confirmed Shigella sonnei cases. Interviews with these culture-positive individuals indicated that they all had eaten at the Royal Fork restaurant located in Mount Vernon, Washington, between January 13 and January 20, 2001.
SCHD requested assistance from the Communicable Disease Epidemiology section of the Washington State Department of Health (WDOH) for further investigation. Following lab tests and an epidemiologic investigation, WDOH found that a food worker at the Royal Fork restaurant was also infected with Shigella sonnei.
The infected food worker had recently returned from travel in Mexico. Upon her return, she suffered Shigella-like symptoms until approximately January 6, and returned to work at Royal Fork on January 10, after her symptoms had subsided. WDOH learned that the infected food worker was in charge of restocking the salad bar, and that she did not routinely wear gloves during this process.
Based on the findings of both SCDH’s investigation and its own investigation, WDOH concluded that, “Shigella sonnei was most likely transmitted to restaurant patrons by an infected food worker through the vehicle of romaine lettuce served on the salad bar.”
Marler Clark represented individuals who became ill with Shigella infections after eating at Royal Fork in claims against the restaurant. The claims were resolved in early 2002.