ATHENS, OH – The family of a woman killed after contracting a Salmonella infection filed a lawsuit Monday, June 20th in the Athens County Court of Common Pleas against the Athens-based restaurant Casa Lopez. The suit is the second filed by Seattle-based food poisoning law firm Marler Clark on behalf of victims made ill in a 2010 Salmonella outbreak.
According to the complaint, Zella Ploghoft, an 82-year-old Athens resident, ate with her family at Casa Lopez on April 30, 2010 where she and her son shared the “Special Dinner for Two”. The next day both experienced severe gastrointestinal symptoms. While her son eventually recovered, Mrs. Ploghoft spent 7 weeks in and out of hospitals and care centers, enduring a number of medical complications, including severe bodily swelling and a stroke, before passing away on June 22, 2010.
“What was supposed to be a nice little evening out with the family turned out to be a drawn out, painful nightmare,” said Ploghoft family attorney Bill Marler. “At this stage, nearly a year later, it is only right that Casa Lopez address this and give the Ploghoft family the peace of mind they deserve.”
In May of 2010 the Athens Health Department began recording higher than normal incidences of Salmonella infection, prompting an investigation that linked Casa Lopez to the outbreak. Health officials observed a number of food safety violations including improper temperatures for hot and cold holding, no soap available at the employee hand washing station, no date markings on any food, and raw food stored above uncovered prepared food. In total 56 people were sickened from eating or being exposed to food from Casa Lopez.
Marler, who is also a leading food safety advocate, believes this type of outbreak can be easily avoided if restaurants follow food safety procedures. “The food industry is very aware of the risks involved with foodborne illness,” added Marler. “There are people who have dedicated their entire lives to designing systems to prevent these types of outbreaks. So when people die because a restaurant chose not to follow procedure, it is not only sad but thoroughly inexcusable.”
Salmonella accounts for 30% of all foodborne illnesses in U.S. and is believed to be responsible for over 1 million sicknesses, 20,000 hospitalizations, and 378 deaths annually. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramps, fever, and vomiting. In some cases reactive arthritis may occur.