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Second food-poisoning victim sues Chili’s in fed court

Jim Newton

A national law firm has filed a second lawsuit in federal court against Brinker International, the corporation that owns the Chili’s restaurant in Vernon Hills that was the source of a large salmonella outbreak last summer.

The firm of Marler Clark is seeking more that $75,000 in damages on behalf of Kimberly Fields, who became seriously ill and was hospitalized after eating a take-out meal from Chili’s on June 26.

Those who became ill during the outbreak ate at the restaurant between June 23 and July 1, according to the Lake County Health Department.

The incident was the second-largest food poisoning outbreak in the county’s history, with 167 confirmed cases, including 140 patrons and 27 employees, and 145 probable cases. Nine of those who became sick were hospitalized.

Marler Clark is representing more than 60 victims of that incident, according to attorney Denis Stearns. He said the suit involving Fields was filed separately in federal court due to the seriousness of her illness, as was the case in the first federal suit fled by Marler Clark on behalf of Jennifer Lussow, who was also hospitalized.

Stearns said cases involving victims who were less seriously affected may be consolidated in future suits. He added that Marler Clark is working locally with the Waukegan law firm of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard.

Salmonella can be spread by people, especially food-service workers, who have not properly washed their hands after using the bathroom. Health officials said that the restaurant, in violation of health ordinances, remained open on June 26 although hot-water service was not available, and on June 27 without any running water during lunchtime hours.

Earlier this month, the Health Department received a voluntary $32,000 payment from Brinker to help cover the department’s staff time and other expenses related to the outbreak.

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