News from Hepatitis Week of Dec. 7, 2003 / Vol. 3 No. 49
First Lawsuit Filed in Pennsylvania Hepatitis A Outbreak

The first lawsuit has been filed as a result of the recent hepatitis A outbreak in Pennsylvania that sickened more than 600 people and killed three who ate at a Mexican restaurant in a mall in suburban Pittsburgh.

The Seattle-based law firm of Marler Clark filed the suit December 1 on behalf of a stricken Pennsylvania couple against the suppliers of the contaminated Mexican green onions that led to the outbreak among people who dined at a Chi-Chi's restaurant.

One of the plaintiffs, Richard Miller, underwent a liver transplant after contracting the disease and remains in the hospital where his bills have exceeded $500,000 thus far, according to the lawsuit. Miller's wife, Linda, was also stricken with hepatitis A.

"We filed suit against those growers and suppliers who had the opportunity to prevent this outbreak before it reached Chi-Chi's restaurant and the Miller's lunch," said attorney William Marler.

Filed in federal court, the suit names three California distributors and a Kentucky supplier. U.S. inspectors said on December 5th that they found that one of the green onion growers in Mexico failed to meet hygiene standards. Instead, the grower had its onions washed with water from a nearby reservoir, rather than with purified drinking water, as required.

Other sources: WTAE-TV