Chipotle Norovirus Lawsuit Filed Over Second-Hand Exposure

A norovirus lawsuit has been filed against Chipotle by a man with kidney disease who alleged contracted the infection from a friend who had recently eaten at a California restaurant recently linked to a food poisoning outbreak involving norovirus. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Keith Zimmerman in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California on February 8, indicating that he contracted norovirus in August 2015, after a family friend had recently eaten at a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley.

Zimmerman indicates that he was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2000, and was unaware that his friend had contracted the highly contagious norovirus bug after eating at a Chipotle where a number of consumers were infected. Following the second-hand exposure, Zimmerman began to experience symptoms of food poisoning the next day. Due to side effects and complications of his underlying illness and compromised immune system, Zimmerman was hospitalized for 10 days.

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Norovirus is a viral gastrenterisitis condition that is transmitted by ecally contaminated food or water, as well as by person-to-person contact. The virus causes over 200,000 deaths worldwide each year, but these are usually seen in less developed countries.

Zimmerman contracted the illness amid a California norovirus outbreak that sickened at least 100 customers who ate at the Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley around August 2015.

That Chipotle outbreak was preceded by a salmonella food poisoning outbreak that sickened 64 customers who ate at another location of the Mexican food chain in Minnesota that same month. It was then followed by an E. coli outbreak in October and November, which sickened at least 53 people in nine states; another outbreak that sickened 140 patrons of a Boston restaurant, and reports of five other norovirus illnesses scattered across three states, all of whom also were traced back to Chipotle eateries.

A number of Chipotle food poisoning lawsuits have been filed against the chain by some consumers who fell ill, but it is believed that Zimmerman is the first to file a case over second-hand exposure after being infected by another person who ate at a Chipotle restaurant.

The lawsuit pursues claims against Chipotle for strict liability and negligence, seeking compensatory damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and pharmaceutical expenses.


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