Salmonella Cases Go To Court

Thirty-five lawsuits have been filed at the Mitchell County Clerk of Court's office surrounding the April, 2002 salmonella outbreak at Western Sizzlin' in Spruce Pine.

William Marler, attorney for the plaintiffs, said that the lawsuits will be consolidated at some point in the future, but are not part of a class action lawsuit.

Marler said the 35 lawsuits are the result of a breakdown in negotiations between the plaintiffs and the Western Sizzlin' insurance representative.

Mark Kurdys, the attorney of record for Western Sizzlin', said the negotiations between the two sides broke down after a large conference at town hall recently.

Neither Marler nor Clark know when to expect any further action in the proceedings. Both sides said they would have preferred a settlement to have come from the conference.

Darrin King, owner of the restaurant, talked to some of the families at the conference. Marler said King showed great compassion for the families that had suffered illnesses.

"He was a stand-up guy," said Marler. He said King and the local restaurant had cooperated with the investigation completely.

In a press release, Marler said the insurance company for Western Sizzlin' made offers that were unreasonable to his clients and now a jury would decide.

"Now it will be up to a jury to decide what the price of poisoning customers really is," he said.

Kurdys said his client had hoped that a settlement would have been the best for everyone involved, but he no longer felt that was an option.

"I would not say anything to influence any citizen of Mitchell County in this case," said Kurdys.

He believes there was no evidence of negligence on the part of the restaurant.

The first of the cases is set to go to trial in February, according to Marler.