August 25, 2011
A Seattle-based law firm specializing in food-bourne illness litigation has filed a class-action lawsuit against Olive Garden after one of its Fayetteville employees tested positive for hepatitis A.
The suit alleges that the restaurant failed in its responsibility to deliver safe food. The worker has been the only known case of illness, but at least 2,730 people have gotten immunizations over the past week at the urging of county health officials.
The lawsuit, prepared by the firm Marler Clark on behalf of Claudia Prescott of Fayetteville, alleges that customers were exposed to potentially contaminated food or people. As a result, patrons sustained damages including lost wages, medical expenses, “fear of harm and humiliation” and physical pain and injury, the complaint says.
The allegations include that Olive Garden was negligent by failing to require its employees to be vaccinated against hepatitis A and by failing to prevent an infected employee from working.
State health regulations require employers to bar sick employees from working in restaurants, said Tony Ferguson, food and lodging supervisor with the Cumberland County Health Department. That means if managers see someone coughing and sneezing, they should send the employee home, he said.
“If you’re sick, you’re not allowed to work in the restaurant, but you’re not required to have the hepatitis A vaccine to work in the restaurant,” Ferguson said.
The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $10,000 from Olive Garden and its parent company, Florida-based GMRI Inc. The suit leaves open the potential for others to join as co-plaintiffs.
Prescott ate at the North McPherson Church Road restaurant on Aug. 1, the suit says. She declined to be interviewed.
Article: Fayetteville Observer
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