Lawsuit Filed Today.

Salsarita’s Restaurant in the Walmart Home Office Café in Bentonville has reopened following a Shigella outbreak that made 275 sick in nine states according to the Benton County Health Department.  According to the Arkansas State Health Department dozens of employees were also ill with Shigellosis.

The Benton County Health Department conducted an inspection on June 18, shorty after people started getting sick.  Inspectors found nine violations on that inspection.  Of those nine violations, five were marked priority, meaning they were concerns that needed to be fixed fast.  Some violations included, employees not washing their hands or touching cooked food without wearing gloves.  The report said raw chicken had been dripping on bottled drinks.

On a follow-up inspection on June 23, inspectors found seven violations, some of them the same as the previous inspection.

After the outbreak, Eurest, the third-party company in charge of managing the kitchen, hired a quality assurance manager and will retrain staff on the company’s safety protocols.

Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria. The diarrhea is often bloody. Shigellosis usually resolves in 5 to 7 days. Persons with shigellosis in the United States rarely require hospitalization. A severe infection with high fever may be associated with seizures in children less than 2 years old.

Delida and James Groom live in Connecticut.  Mr. Groom is active duty with the U.S. Navy.  They have a 1-year-old daughter.  In June 2014, Mrs. Groom and her daughter traveled to Bentonville, Arkansas to visit Mrs. Groom’s parents.  While in Arkansas, on Friday, June 13, 2014, Mrs. Groom attended a luncheon that included multiple foods from the Walmart Home Office Café, including chips, salsa, and other items produced at the Salsarita’s restaurant located in the Café.

The following evening, June 14, 2014, Mrs. Groom began to feel slightly fevered, light-headed, and nauseated.  The symptoms continued throughout the night.  On June 15, 2014, Mrs. Groom developed severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and a high fever.  On June 16, 2014, Mrs. Groom’s fever continued to rise, and the other symptoms continued unabated. This prompted her to go the Mercy Urgent Care in Rogers, Arkansas.  Once she arrived, Mrs. Groom learned that she could not be seen for approximately five hours.  As a result, she left the urgent care facility.

Mrs. Groom and her daughter were scheduled to return home on June 17, 2014.  Unaware of the increasingly dire nature of her health crisis, Mrs. Groom elected to make the trip despite her symptoms.  Her mother agreed to make the long drive back to Connecticut with Mrs. Groom and her daughter.  During the first day of the trip home, Mrs. Groom’s symptoms caused them to have to stop frequently at rest areas, gas stations, and other facilities with restrooms.  Early in the day she noticed that her bouts of diarrhea had turned bloody.

The evening of June 17, 2014, Mrs. Groom’s episodes of diarrhea contained almost pure blood and no stool.  At this point, she and her daughter and mother were in the state of Indiana and were frightened and did not know what to do.  Mr. Groom was on active duty with the Navy and had learned of his wife’s dire circumstances and was frightened for the well-being of his wife and daughter.

Ultimately, Mrs. Groom decided to call her primary physician in Connecticut and received instruction to go to the nearest emergency hospital.  Thus, early the next morning, June 18, 2014, Mrs. Groom was seen at Hancock Regional Hospital in Greenefield, Indiana.

In the emergency department at Hancock Regional, Mrs. Groom was diagnosed with hypokalemia, which is a potassium deficiency caused by her immense gastrointestinal losses, as well as a dangerously low blood pressure.  Her fever also had continued to rise.  It was increasingly clear that the Shigella bacteria Mrs. Groom consumed on the contaminated food items manufactured and sold by the defendants had found its way into her bloodstream, causing her to develop sepsis.  Mrs. Groom was experiencing septic shock.

Mrs. Groom was admitted to the intensive care unit and quarantined, due to her likely infectious state.  Upon admission, it was also found that Mrs. Groom’s rectum had prolapsed, again due to the repeated, violent bouts of diarrhea that she had suffered for multiple days.  She was in severe pain and was medicated with morphine.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Groom’s mother kept Mr. Groom apprised of his wife’s declining health.  Mrs. Groom’s mother obtained a hotel room close to the hospital, where she stayed with Mrs. Groom’s 1-year-old daughter, who had also begun to suffer from gastrointestinal illness.

Mrs. Groom remained in the intensive care unit through the afternoon of June 21, 2014.  During her stay, she submitted a stool sample that tested positive for Shigella.  She ultimately was discharged against the advice of her doctors, who felt that she was not well enough to continue the long journey home.  Nevertheless, Mrs. Groom needed to get home to her family, and her young daughter needed to be home as well.  Thus, Mrs. Groom and her mother and daughter continued the drive home, arriving on or about June 23, 2014.

Mrs. Groom continues to suffer from the effects of her severe Shigellosis illness.  Her gastrointestinal function remains impaired and highly uncomfortable.  Also, approximately 3 weeks after the onset of her initial gastrointestinal symptoms, Mrs. Groom developed pain and swelling in multiple joints throughout her body, including both knees, ankles, and hands, her right elbow, and her neck.  This condition is known as reactive arthritis.  All of these medical problems were proximately caused by the Shigellosis infection.

Further, at the time that she tested positive for Shigella, Mrs. Groom learned from public health officials that she could not care for children or family members due to her infectious state.  This meant that she, a wife and mother, could not cook meals for her family or participate in the many activities of daily living that she had always enjoyed.  Nor could she provide nanny or babysitting services for a local family that had employed her to do so.  During the time that she was positive for Shigella infection, all of the household activities that she could not do had to be done by her husband, who also worked full time as an active duty diver for the U.S. Navy.  Mrs. Groom continues to be limited in her physical activity due to the ongoing effects of her illness, including the reactive arthritis.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Shigella outbreaks. The Shigella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Shigella 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 Shigella lawyers have litigated Shigella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as tomatoes, airplane and restaurant food.

If you or a family member became ill with a Shigella infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Shigella attorneys for a free case evaluation.