April 12, 2016, PLLR E-Newsletter
Deli’s improper food safety procedures caused young patron’s salmonella poisoning
The girl and her parents sued the deli, alleging strict liability for selling contaminated food. The parties settled before trial for $150,000. Gagnon v. Brent’s Delicatessen & Rest.
On June 28, 2014, 13-year-old Hailey Gagnon and her family went to eat at Brent’s Deli, in Westlake Village, Calif. Hailey had a corned beef sandwich and potato salad. Soon after, she developed diarrhea and headaches. Over the next several days, she also developed fevers, fatigue, muscle aches, and chills. Her mother took her to a hospital emergency room, where staff diagnosed a probable virus and discharged her. She was called back the following day based on the results of blood cultures and was admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of bacteria in the bloodstream. Staff subsequently diagnosed salmonella poisoning.
Hailey spent the next seven days in the hospital, receiving oral and intravenous antibiotics. Because her veins were deep and difficult to see, and because she has a bleeding disorder, the nurses had difficulty with her IVs. She suffered extensive bruising to her arms and had to have a board affixed to her arm to keep the line in place. The illness and related hospitalization were extremely painful and stressful for Hailey. Her medical expenses totaled about $59,300.
Hailey and her parents sued Brent’s Deli, alleging strict liability for selling food that was contaminated with salmonella.
The plaintiffs were prepared to show that in July 2014, public health investigators learned of an increase in cases of patients suffering from Salmonella Montevideo, and investigators determined that a number of patients with the same strain had all eaten at Brent’s Deli before falling ill. The findings prompted an investigation by the county health department, which uncovered multiple food safety violations, including improper food storage and cooling and inadequate sanitization procedures.
The health department ordered the deli to correct the violations immediately, but at a follow-up inspection later that month, inspectors noted major violations, including improper refrigeration, a lack of adequate sanitization and employee hand-washing procedures, and leaking plumbing fixtures. Although the violations were corrected, continuing reports of ill customers prompted yet another investigation in August, when inspectors discovered inadequate hot holding temperatures for corned beef and improper thawing. In all, 21 people who ate at the deli—including two employees—were sickened with salmonella poisoning.
Other evidence showed that that the deli had been cited for multiple health code violations in the seven years preceding the incident.
The parties settled before trial for $150,000, paid by the defendant’s insurer.
Citation: Gagnon v. Brent’s Delicatessen & Rest., No. 56-2015-00470547-CU-PT-VTA (Cal. Super. Ct. Ventura Cnty. Jan. 6, 2016).
Plaintiff counsel: William Marler, Seattle; and Trevor M. Quirk, Ventura, Calif.