Wrongful death lawsuit filed against Elmira restaurant


ROCHESTER, NY – A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the Maple Lawn Dairy Family Restaurant on behalf of the estate of Donald Rockwell, a Chemung County resident who contracted hepatitis A after eating at the restaurant in October, 2004 and died on March 13, 2005. Seattle law firm Marler Clark and Rochester law firm Underberg & Kessler, which together represented over 80 victims of the 2002 Brook-Lea Country Club salmonella outbreak in Rochester, represent Mr. Rockwell’s estate and his two minor children in the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Chemung County Superior Court (Case Number 05-1578).

The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Rockwell ate at the restaurant on October 3, 2004 and that he began feeling ill on October 20. Mr. Rockwell sought medical attention on November 3, for a hepatitis A infection. Two days later, he was transferred to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, where he suffered liver failure and several secondary infections while remaining in the intensive care unit for months. Mr. Rockwell’s kidneys failed, and he was placed in a medically induced coma, from which he awoke.

“We filed this lawsuit because Mr. Rockwell’s children have been left without a father and provider.” said Bruce Clark, a partner with Marler Clark. “They are certainly not looking to hurt the restaurant, but instead seek just compensation for what they have gone through emotionally and for the financial loss sustained. It’s been an unbelievably difficult ordeal for these kids. Our goal is to obtain whatever insurance proceeds may be available, though anything approaching full compensation for a loss this large is most unlikely. The family is very grateful for the community support they have received.”

Clark pointed out that, contrary to some reports, the family is not suing the Chemung County Health Department, which confirmed that Mr. Rockwell’s hepatitis A infection was the result of consuming contaminated food sold at the Maple Lawn Dairy in October, 2004.

“Mr. Rockwell’s family does not blame the health department for late notification about the potential outbreak,” Clark continued. “It’s the health department’s job to protect the public, and the family feels that the Chemung County Health Department tried its hardest to do so. The reality is that hepatitis A outbreaks can be prevented and the law holds restaurants which make their customers sick legally responsible, period.”

Marler Clark has represented hundreds of victims of hepatitis A outbreaks, including over 75 victims of a 2003 hepatitis A outbreak in Pennsylvania that was traced to contaminated green onions, and 29 people who were infected with hepatitis A after being exposed at a Seattle Subway sandwich shop.

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BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of outbreaks traced to communicable diseases such as hepatitis A, E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. Underberg & Kessler is a major Rochester law firm providing a full spectrum of legal services.

For information on hepatitis A-related litigation, visit the Marler Clark-sponsored Web site www.hepatitislitigation.com, and for hepatitis A-related news, www.hepatitisblog.com.

More about the Maple Lawn Dairy hepatitis A outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.