Two lawsuits filed against Chi-Chi's on behalf of hepatitis A outbreak victims


PITTSBURGH — Marler Clark and Meyers, Kenrick & Giuffre filed two lawsuits against Chi-Chi’s on Wednesday on behalf of hepatitis A infection victims Angelo Palitti, of Alquippa, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, and Bennie Martino, of Monaca, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Both lawsuits allege that the plaintiffs contracted hepatitis A after eating at the Beaver Valley Mall Chi-Chi’s restaurant in October, 2003. The lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Civil Action Numbers 04-1878 and 04-1877).

Mr. Palitti, a recent kidney transplant survivor, was forced to reduce the number of anti-rejection medications he was taking at the time he was diagnosed with hepatitis A. He was hospitalized five times because doctors feared he would develop complications related to his hepatitis A infection, and needed frequent monitoring of kidney function due to the lessening of dosage of his anti-rejection medications.

Mr. Martino, who was healthy before his hepatitis A infection, was hospitalized for ten days for dehydration and kidney failure secondary to his hepatitis A infection. He was constantly monitored for the need for a liver transplant, and was considered immuno-suppressed after his hepatitis A infection and subsequent renal failure. Several months after the acute phase of his hepatitis A infection, Mr. Martino suffered a Streptococcus Pneumoniae infection that doctors attributed to his hepatitis.

“These two men’s lives have been significantly altered because of the serious complications they experienced after being infected with the hepatitis A virus,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark. “They have recovered remarkably well, considering the circumstances, but they – and their families – suffered a great deal for months after their acute illnesses, and they are still recovering and continue to suffer emotionally for what they went through.”

The lawsuits, which are based on products liability law and the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, allege that Chi-Chi’s sold unsafe food products, and violated federal, state, and local food safety regulations by manufacturing and selling adulterated food. The filing of the lawsuits became necessary following an unsuccessful mediation, when Chi Chi’s refused to reasonably compensate the plaintiffs and their families for their loss.

“People think that when you have food poisoning it’s just a couple of days of discomfort, maybe some diarrhea and vomiting. They don’t realize that the impacts of food-borne illness extend far beyond that. Angelo and Bennie’s medical bills and lost wages alone prove that the effects of a hepatitis A infection may be far more than the public’s perception,” Marler continued. “Chi-Chi’s should know better; it has seen the multiple impacts hepatitis A has had on the lives of over six hundred of its patrons, but it now refuses to take the claims of the most debilitated victims of this outbreak seriously. I’m hoping a jury will affirm that for them.”

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BACKGROUND: Marler Clark is a Seattle law firm dedicated to the representation of victims of food-borne illness. William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box after the 1993 E. coli outbreak. The firm has since then represented thousands of victims of E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, hepatitis A, Shigella, Campylobacter, Listeria, and Norovirus across the United States.

More about the Chi-Chi's hepatitis A outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.