September 2005

As the Associated Press reported today, a man who needed a liver transplant after he got hepatitis A from a Chi-Chi’s restaurant has settled a lawsuit against the bankrupt chain for $6.25 million US.
Richard Miller, 58, was among 660 people sickened by scallions served at a Chi-Chi’s near Pittsburgh in the fall of 2003. Four people died in the outbreak.
A federal judge Thursday approved the settlement, which includes a $4.1-million trust to pay for Miller’s care. Miller is married, with three children.
“The Millers are happy to have the litigation behind them,” said lawyer William Marler. “No amount of money ever makes losing your liver worth it, certainly.”
The chain of Mexican restaurants said it has paid more than $40 million to settle hundreds of lawsuits over the outbreak. The company sold all its restaurants to Outback Steakhouse Inc. last year.

The Clark County, Nevada, Health Department warned that a food worker at the Global Gaming Expo, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center September 13-15, 2005, tested positive for hepatitis A. The infected food worker was serving Schwan’s ice cream samples at the Schwan’s Food Service Booth, and did not show symptoms of the illness until after the conference although he was infectious during the time he served ice cream samples at the Gaming Expo.
Hepatitis A is a virus that primarily infects the liver. Symptoms of infection may not appear for 15-50 days after exposure to the virus. They include muscle aches, headache, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, fever, and malaise. After a few days of initial symptoms, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) sets in. In rare cases, the hepatitis A virus causes liver failure and impairs the infected person’s cognitive functioning.
“When individuals are exposed to hepatitis A, they want to know all they can about the symptoms of infection, so if they experience symptoms of hepatitis A, they can be educated about the disease when they contact a health care professional. Our site about Hepatitis A provides some of the most comprehensive information on the Web about this serious liver infection,” said William Marler, a Seattle attorney who has dedicated his practice to representing victims of foodborne illness outbreaks.
The Clark County Health Department is holding a public immunization clinic on September 24 and September 25, from 9am to 2pm at the Ravenholt Public Health Center for anyone who may have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus. The Health Department can be reached at 702-759-1300. Press option #5.

Marler Clark and Underberg & Kessler filed a class action complaint today against the New York Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The lawsuit, which was filed in the State of New York Court of Claims, was filed on behalf of nearly 4,000 people who became ill with Cryptosporidiosis after visiting the Spraypark at Seneca Lake State Park in July and August. The named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Timothy and Jacqueline Springer, a Monroe County couple, and their three children, who became ill with Cryptosporidium infections after visiting the Spraypark in late July.
“We filed this lawsuit as a class action lawsuit as the most effective way of handling this many ill people, especially children,” said William Marler, managing partner of Seattle-based Marler Clark. “The Springer children suffered Cryptosporidiosis after playing at the Spraypark, and Mr. Springer had to be hospitalized after suffering a secondary infection after caring for his children. Thousands of other people suffered the same fate because the Office of State Parks failed to ensure the water at the Spraypark was safe.”

Continue Reading Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against New York Office of State Parks

Craig Fox of the Finger Lakes Times has also reported on the spraypark claim filed. From the article:

A Rochester attorney and a nationally known Seattle law firm yesterday filed a notice of claim for a class action suit they may bring on behalf of some families who became sick after visiting the spraypark at Seneca Lake State Park.
The 4-year-old sprayground was closed Aug. 15 after about 40 people complained of a gastrointestinal illness. In subsequent weeks, reports of the outbreak grew to more than 3,869 people in 35 counties – with 612 cases confirmed.
The state Health Department determined the illness was cryptosporidiosis, caused by a microscopic parasite.
Filed with the state Attorney General’s office, the notice of claim names Rochester resident Tricia Van Putte and her two young children as plaintiffs, but Nunes and the Seattle law firm are also representing several other families.

Continue Reading Spraypark claim filed

Lauren Stanforth, a staff writer for DemocratandChronicle.com, has reported on Marler Clark’s notice filed against New York state over Seneca Lake State Park’s Sprayground outbreak this summer.
From the article:

Two lawyers filed a notice Thursday with the state Attorney General’s Office that they intend to pursue a class action lawsuit against the state for the massive parasitic outbreak that struck Seneca Lake State Park’s Sprayground this summer.
Tricia Van Putte of Greece is the only individual named in the notice of claim. She appears in the notice on behalf of herself and her two small children who attended the Sprayground on Aug. 11 and contracted cryptosporidiosis, a gastrointestinal illness caused by the parasite cryptosporidium.
But the notice also alerts the state of the attorneys’ intentions to file a lawsuit involving more clients. Rochester lawyer Paul Nunes, one of the lawyers who filed the notice, said he has been contacted by about three dozen people interested in getting retribution for illness associated with the park.
“One family talked about not being able to enjoy their back yard pool during this beautiful weather,” Nunes said. But also, “we’ve got a husband of a family in the hospital this evening,” with symptoms from cryptosporidiosis.
In one of the nation’s largest waterborne parasitic outbreaks, the parasite somehow infiltrated the Sprayground’s water supply, which is recycled daily.
More than 3,800 people from 35 New York counties have reported becoming ill after having contact with the Sprayground between June and mid-August. At least 33 people have been hospitalized.
The state closed the Sprayground near Geneva, Ontario County, in mid-August after finding cryptosporidium in the park’s water tanks.
The state Health Department is still investigating the incident.
The state Attorney General’s Office, which defends lawsuits against the state, said this was the first notice of claim filed in the incident. Marc Violette, a spokesman for the office, had no further comment. Wendy Gibson, spokeswoman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which is named in the notice, also would not comment.
Nunes filed the notice of claim with William Marler, a Seattle lawyer known for litigation involving food and waterborne illness.

Marler Clark and Underberg & Kessler filed a notice of claim today against the New York Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The notice indicates the intent to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of over 3,200 people who became ill with Cryptosporidiosis after visiting the Sprayground at Seneca Lake State Park in July and August. The notice was filed on behalf of Tricia Van Putte and her two young children, who will be the named plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, and who became ill with Cryptosporidium infections after visiting the Sprayground. Marler Clark and Underberg and Kessler have been retained by several other families.
The New York State Health Department shut down the Sprayground on August 15 after it was determined that the Sprayground’s water holding tanks, which were used to recycle water, were contaminated with Cryptosporidium. On August 26, the Health Department issued an update on its investigation into the outbreak, announcing that 3,297 cases of Cryptosporidium had been reported in 33 New York counties. Of those cases, 415 were confirmed cases reported to the State Health Department. Thirty-three people had been hospitalized with Cryptosporidiosis.
In 1997, 369 people, mostly children, became ill with Cryptosporidiosis after playing in a water fountain at a Minnesota zoo. In 1999, at least 38 people became ill with Cryptosporidium or Shigella infections after playing in a spray fountain at a beachside park in Florida.
“Whether they are publicly or privately operated, all water parks should have sanitation measures in place to prevent outbreaks. The majority of people who play in sprayparks and pools are children – the most vulnerable population to parasites and pathogenic bacteria,” said William Marler, managing partner of Seattle-based Marler Clark, who represented twelve of 26 children who became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after visiting an Atlanta, Georgia, waterpark in 1998.
Ms. Van Putte and their two children became ill with Cryptosporidiosis days after visiting the Sprayground. Symptoms included diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and loss of appetite. The children’s illnesses were confirmed as Cryptosporidiosis by the State Health Department.
On August 26, the Democrat & Chronicle reported that the state Health Department will rewrite regulations governing water quality at all sprayparks and will implement them on an emergency basis by November. Paul Nunes, a partner in the Rochester firm Underberg & Kessler, added, “You would think that after the Washington County Fair E. coli outbreak in 1998 there would be higher standards for all water supplies in the State of New York. It’s a shame that there had to be another outbreak to make water safety a priority.”
Together, Marler Clark and Underberg & Kessler represented 75 victims, several of them children, of the Brook-Lea County Club Salmonella outbreak of 2002. The two firms also represented two Orangeburg, NY girls who became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating contaminated ground beef from BJ’s Wholesale Club in 2002. For more information on Cryptosporidium, see www.CryptosporidiumBlog.com.