Marler Clark has settled the claims of 49 individuals who were infected with salmonella after eating at the Vernon Hills Chili’s Grill & Bar in late June and early July of 2003.
These lawsuits, along with a class action lawsuit that sought punitive damages on behalf of all outbreak victims, will be dismissed as part of the settlement. The amount of the settlement is confidential.
"We were far along in the process of preparing these cases for trial when settlement discussions finally seemed to turn serious," said Marler Clark partner Denis Stearns. "We believed strongly in our case, and the importance of the point we were trying to make about food safety and corporate responsibility. This was a case my partners and I really wanted to take to trial. But when finally faced with the chance to not only fully compensate our clients, but to do so in a way that showed the clients that, ‘We really did send a message with this one’–that was something we had to recommend accepting."
The Lake County Health Department’s outbreak investigation revealed that the Vernon Hills Chili’s had been under operation despite having a broken dish-machine and a lack of hot water for at least one day, and a lack of any water at all during most of the lunch-rush one day when infected food workers were preparing and serving food to patrons. The Lake County Health Department reported that 305 Chili’s patrons reported having symptoms of salmonella infection that could be traced to Chili’s.