Lawsuits frequently turn on circumstantial evidence. Juries are instructed that there is no qualitative difference between circumstantial evidence (i.e. an inference reasonably drawn from the existence of another fact or circumstance) and direct evidence. In foodpoisoning and E. coli lawsuits, circumstantial evidence is frequently relied upon for proof of exactly how an outbreak occurs. For instance, a restaurant’s long history of food-handling violations can be relied upon to establish that food-handling errors lead to contamination of food by potentially lethal bacteria like E. coli O157:H7..
The circumstances surrounding the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to Peppa’s II Korean BBQ restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii are not yet fully known, but evidence suggests that cross-contamination, and food-handlng errors, likely played a role in causing 7 people to be sickened. Mary Adamski of the Star Bulletin reports that:
Management of Peppa’s II Korean BBQ at 1240 S. King St. agreed to the closure and is cooperating to correct violations, said Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo. The restaurant staff will attend a Sanitation Branch Food Safety Certification workshop.
The reasonable inference to be drawn from these circumstances is that Peppa’s employees were not following proper food-handling procedures in the manufacture of food for Peppa’s customers. Restaurant closures do not occur in every restaurant outbreak, but when they do happen, often for extensive environmental cleaning, the implication is that the restaurant is either a continuing hazard due to contamination of physical surfaces or foodhandling devices, or the employees are simply ill-equipped (i.e. not trained) to properly execute the requirements of state law’s related to safe food handling.
The Peppa’s E. coli O157:H7 outbreak has sickened at least 7 people. Four people were hospitalized as a result, and it appears that at least one person remains hospitalized and in serious condition. It is not publicly known whether the person who remains hospitalized developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).