Chili's Salmonella Outbreak LitigationOver three hundred people who ate food from a Chili’s restaurant in Vernon Hills, Illinois between June 23, 2003 and July 1, 2003 were infected with Salmonella javiana, a relatively unusual strain of the sometimes deadly Salmonella bacteria.
An investigation conducted by the Lake County Health department revealed a host of deficiencies and safety violations that contributed to the Salmonella outbreak, or made it worse. These included the operation of the restaurant one day without available hot water, the operation of the restaurant for part of the following day with no available hot water, a general lack of hand-washing that caused fecal-oral contamination of multiple food items, and a dish-machine sanitizer that failed due to lack of repair. Twenty-eight employees tested positive for Salmonella, with one employee reporting symptoms as early as June 5, 2003.
The Chili’s restaurant closed at the request of the health department, reopening only after it was deemed no longer a threat to public health. After re-opening, sales at the Chili’s restaurant apparently never recovered, and it was closed permanently in May, 2004.
Chili’s is owned and operated by Brinker Restaurant Corporation, which is based in Dallas, Texas.
The first lawsuit arising from the outbreak was by Marler Clark's Salmonella lawyers on July 10, 2003, followed by a second lawsuit on December 16, 2003. Both lawsuits were filed in federal court and included a claim for punitive damages based on what was alleged to be a “conscious disregard of a known safety risk.”
On July 6, 2004, Marler Clark filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all persons who became ill with Salmonella infection after eating at the Vernon Hills Chili's restaurant between June 23, 2003 and June 30, 2003. In a news release regarding the filing of the class action lawsuit, Marler Clark partner Denis Stearns said, "Rather than seeking to punish the company for its behavior on a case-by-case basis, in individual lawsuits, this class-action will resolve the punitive damages issue in one lawsuit, on behalf of everyone injured by what is alleged to be Chili’s conscious disregard of the public’s safety.”
Marler Clark concluded Salmonella litigation against Chili's in August, 2004, when the firm resolved the claims of 53 individuals who were sickened in the outbreak.
More about the Chili's Salmonella outbreak can be found on the Marler Clark-sponsored site about Salmonella.