As of September 23, 2015, The Food Safety Law Firm, Marler Clark LLP, has filed a class action lawsuit against fast-food corporation, Hardee’s Food Systems, LLC. Hardee’s is a Delaware corporation, with its principle place of business in Missouri. The plaintiff, Cody Werkmeister, a Spartanburg County, South Carolina resident, is a victim of Hepatitis A virus (HAV) exposure after eating at a Hardee’s restaurant in South Carolina. He has filed on behalf of himself, as an individual, and on behalf of all those similarly situated.
On September 17, 2015, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environment (SCDHE) was notified that an employee at a Hardee’s location had tested positive for hepatitis A, and had been working at the restaurant during his hepatitis A infection. The SCDHE issued a public health alert notifying previous customers of “exposure periods” – that is, between September 4 and September 15 at the Lyman-area restaurant, and between September 4 and September 13 at the Duncan-area restaurant – in which customers during that time at both locations should receive post-exposure treatment for HAV.
As a result, over 3,700 individuals received post-exposure treatment, including plaintiff Cody Werkmeister, who was administered the hepatitis A vaccine on September 21, 2015. However, the potential class members may exceed 4,000. Post-exposure treatment is recommended for individuals who consumed Hardee’s food for up to two weeks after their date of consumption.
Hardee’s may be found at fault for allowing an employee to work while infected with HAV, for failing to properly supervise, train, or monitor their employees who prepare food for consumption, or for failing to require its food-service employees to obtain HAV immunizations.
Bill Marler, foodborne illness expert and food safety attorney, has been an avid advocate for strengthening preventative measures within the food industry. “Any exposure to hepatitis A is entirely preventable,” Marler said. “By not requiring employees to be vaccinated against the virus, Hardee’s puts itself and all of its customers at risk. Infected people typically don’t show symptoms until a few weeks after contracting hepatitis A, so they could be spreading the virus without even knowing it. However,” he continued, “Had all employees been vaccinated, Hardee’s wouldn’t have to worry about identifying HAV positive employees in the first place, and customers wouldn’t be panicking now to receive treatment.”
Exposed employees and customers are filing for damages that include wage loss, medical-related expenses, travel expenses, emotional distress, fear of harm and humiliation, and physical pain and injury.
The acute symptoms of hepatitis A are a sudden onset of flu-like symptoms about a month after the virus is contracted. Muscle aches, headaches, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, fever, and jaundice are all typical symptoms of the infection. Urine may turn a dark color and stool could be light or clay-colored. The illness typically lasts a few weeks, but recovery could take up to a year. Most affected individuals show complete recovery within three to six months of the onset of illness. Relapse is possible, although it is more common in children than adults.
The best protection against a hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated. An estimated 80,000 cases of HAV occur each year, although much higher estimates have been proposed. Hepatitis A is a virus that primarily infects the liver, and an estimated 100 people die each year as a result of acute liver failure in the U.S. due to hepatitis A. However, the rate of infection has dramatically decreased since the hepatitis A vaccine was licensed and became available in the U.S. in 1995.
Because HAV is so readily transmitted, Bill Marler encourages restaurants and food handlers to adhere to strict sanitary protocols. He warns, “The virus is almost exclusively transmitted through fecal-oral contact, so it is crucial that all employees thoroughly wash their hands after using the restroom, whether they feel sick or not.” For more information about hepatitis A, please visit www.about-hepatitis.com.
Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis A outbreaks. The Hepatitis A lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Hepatitis A and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Hepatitis A lawyers have litigated Hepatitis A cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as green onions, lettuce and restaurant food. The law firm has represented thousands of individuals in class action lawsuits related to HAV, and have brought Hepatitis A lawsuits against such companies as Subway, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Quiznos and Carl’s Jr.
If you or a family member became ill with a Hepatitis A infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Hepatitis A attorneys for a free case evaluation.