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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Hepatitis still hurts

Christopher Snowbeck of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did a story yesterday about my clients Richard and Linda Miller, two of the 660 people sickened with hepatitis A in last year’s Chi Chi’s outbreak. Snowbeck’s article Hepatitis still hurts reports:

Tomorrow marks the single day on which the greatest number of outbreak patients — more than 50 — started feeling sick last year. Most of those people have recovered, but from Richard Miller’s home on a quiet street in the town of Beaver to the farms of northwest Mexico, the outbreak’s impact still lingers.

Chi-Chi’s is in the process of paying out about $10 million to roughly 350 of those sickened in the outbreak. That includes payments of more than $35,000 to each of about 50 victims — larger claims that are subject to bankruptcy court approval.

Ernst said fewer than 100 claims from hepatitis A victims have yet to be resolved through a special mediation process. But Bill Marler, an attorney for several people sickened in the outbreak, said several of the remaining cases — including that of Richard Miller — involve some of the most serious illnesses. Chi-Chi’s has $51 million in liability insurance.

But monetary damages aren’t the only pains still being suffered. Richard Miller still feels the pain, too.

In the kitchen of his Beaver home, a plastic tub filled with 11 pill tubes sits on the counter, a constant reminder of the many medicines he must take. Miller received a liver donated by a 24-year-old, and the organ is functioning very well. But the transplant requires him to take anti-rejection drugs, likely for the rest of his life, and cope with their side effects.
During the transplant surgery, Miller suffered a cardiac arrest, which cut the supply of oxygen to the brain. As a result, he has brain damage that sporadically affects his short-term memory.

Hobbies such as golf, hunting and fishing are impossible, and Miller says he can’t even mow his lawn. But what really hurts is not being able to work, he said.

“Work gives you purpose in life,” Miller said. “Somewhere along the line, I have to find a way to find that again. But right now, I only have about two hours worth of work in me each day.”