Lake Stevens eatery reopens as E. coli suit filed

A Lake Stevens restaurant linked to an outbreak of E. coli was given the go-ahead to reopen Wednesday, the same day a lawsuit was filed on behalf of a girl who was sickened after eating there.

Source of Article:

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Lake Stevens restaurant linked to an outbreak of E. coli was given the go-ahead to reopen Wednesday, the same day a lawsuit was filed on behalf of a girl who says she was sickened after eating there.

The lawsuit was filed by Ray and Allison Riojas, the parents of a 9-year-old girl who became so ill she had to be rushed to Seattle Children's after eating at the Ixtapa Restaurant, according to the suit.

The girl had severe diarrhea, vomited blood and lost 9 pounds, the lawsuit says.

To date, 17 of 19 reported cases of E. coli contamination have been linked to the Mexican restaurant by the Snohomish Health District, according to agency spokeswoman Suzanne Pate.

On Monday, the restaurant voluntarily closed to allow the health-department investigators to determine what might be making customers ill. It got the OK to reopen Wednesday after the restaurant was disinfected and open containers of food were thrown out. In a news release, the Snohomish Health District said the restaurant planned to reopen as soon as shipments of menu ingredients arrive.

The first of the E. coli cases was reported last week.

But what caused the E. coli outbreak is still unknown.

Investigators continue to interview the sick people to see if they ate any common dishes or dishes with common ingredients. Those sickened reported dining at the restaurant from Oct. 2-13.

Narrowing the investigation is a complicated task, Pate said, because the menu is complex and many ingredients appear in a variety of dishes.

"I would feel very safe eating there," she said. "It's been sanitized ceiling to floor. It's probably the best-scrubbed restaurant in the state right now."

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the girl became ill after eating chips, salsa, guacamole, a chicken enchilada, rice and beans.

On Oct. 14, the girl lost her appetite and had diarrhea, and by Oct. 16 had been taken twice to Providence Everett Medical Center to be treated for dehydration. When her symptoms worsened she was rushed to the emergency room at Seattle Children's, where she began vomiting blood.

advertisingAccording to the lawsuit, the girl tested positive for the same strain of E. coli suspected of causing the illness in the others who reported dining at Ixtapa.

The lawsuit was filed by attorney R. Drew Falkenstein of the Marler Clark law firm of Seattle. He said five of the ill people have contacted the firm and more lawsuits may follow.

The advantage in filing a lawsuit quickly is that it allows the attorneys to begin their own investigation as soon as possible, Falkenstein said.

"There have been an unprecedented number of E. coli cases" since September, he said, with cases linked to California-grown lettuce and beef sold in Vermont.

In addition to diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramping, E. coli can cause kidney failure, and in some cases, death. Three children died during a 1993 E. coli outbreak linked to Jack in the Box restaurants.

Marler Clark has carved a reputation for handling contaminated-food cases. It represented hundreds of plaintiffs in the Jack in the Box case.

In 1998, the firm sued an Eastern Washington school district where 11 children fell ill from eating tacos in the school cafeteria, and in 2006, Marler Clark represented 76 plaintiffs sickened by eating tainted spinach.



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