1st Cyclospora Lawsuit Filed Over Salad Outbreak

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on August 06, 2013 8:02 AM

The first Cyclospora lawsuit from this summer's outbreak, now linked to salad served at certain restaurant chains, has been filed.

A Texas woman is suing the Darden Corporation of Orlando, Florida, which owns the Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains.

Suzanne Matteis says she became ill in July and tested positive for Cyclospora infection, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Nationwide, there have been at least 378 confirmed cases of Cyclospora-related illnesses in 16 states since mid-June.

Bottomless Salad Bowls: Possible Liability

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that Cyclospora cases in Iowa and Nebraska have been traced to a tainted salad mix supplied by Taylor Farms of Mexico to Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants in those states. Both restaurant chains are owned by Darden.

According to her lawsuit, Matteis dined at an Olive Garden restaurant in Addison, Texas, on July 1 and suffered nausea, fatigue and diarrhea a few days later, according to the Sentinel. Tests confirmed that her gastroenteritis was caused by Cyclospora, the lawsuit asserts.

However, the company's spokesperson said Darden does not use the supplier, Taylor Farms, in its restaurants in Texas.

If that's true, then Matteis and her attorney will need to do some more digging to prove that the salad she ate at the Olive Garden in Addison was indeed the source of her illness. In order to successfully pursue a food poisoning lawsuit, connecting the sickness to the source is essential.

Once she's able to prove that, Darden could be on the hook for her medical bills. The manufacturer of the food, the wholesaler, and the store could all potentially be held liable.

Check, Please: Potential Damages

In a food poisoning lawsuit, victims typically seek medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and in some situations also seek compensation related to emotional distress.

Cyclospora is a single-celled parasite that attacks the small intestine, causing diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps, bloating, gas, nausea and fatigue.

Since Matteis seems to have experienced relatively mild medical issues -- nausea, fatigue and diarrhea -- the damages she could obtain from her salad poisoning lawsuit would likely be rather limited. As her case proceeds, that's something she and her products liability lawyer will want to discuss.

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