Tropical Smoothie Hepatitis A Outbreak Leads to Class Action Lawsuits
A number of potential class action lawsuits have been filed nationwide the restaurant chain Tropical Smoothie Café, after a multi-state Hepatitis A outbreak, which has sickened more than a hundred people in eight states, was linked to imported Egyptian strawberries used by the restaurant.
Individuals sickened by the Tropical Smoothie Café Hepatitis A outbreak could be eligible to join one of two class action lawsuits filed against the restaurant chain for allegedly withholding known contamination information, resulting in vaccination delays and further spread of the outbreak.
Earlier this month, Samantha Kiker, of Roswell, Georgia, filed a lawsuit in the Georgia Superior Court of Fulton County, seeking class action status for the Tropical Smoothie hepatitis A outbreak.
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The complaint, obtained by Bloomberg BNA, indicates Kiker consumed food products contaminated with Hepatitis A at one of the Tropical Smoothie Cafés. The lawsuit alleges that the smoothie establishment “concealed and then only partially disclosed, the fact that its foods were contaminated with Hepatitis A, thereby compounding the damages and causing its customers to miss the two week window they had to get treatment that would have prevented infection.”
Kiker seeks restitution for damages suffered by herself and all similarly situated customers who were served strawberry products from Tropical Smoothie between January 2016 to August 2016, when the contamination was made public.
The Tropical Smoothie class action presents claims for negligence, fraudulent concealment, and breach of warranty. It is one of at least three similar cases filed to date, with the other two filed in Virginia courts, and at least one also seeks class action status for those requiring vaccinations and additional medical treatment.
Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Egyptian Strawberries
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Hepatitis A outbreak has infected 119 people across eight states. To date, at least 47 of the individuals have been hospitalized, requiring additional medical evaluation and treatment.
The outbreak was first identified after the FDA began receiving reports of Hepatitis A infections at increased rates. In conjunction with the CDC, the FDA began investigating the potential source by performing epidemiological and trace back investigations which pinpointed Tropical Smoothie Café as the source of the contamination.
During interviews throughout the investigation, the CDC reports that nearly all ill people interviewed reported drinking smoothies containing strawberries at a Tropical Smoothie Café location prior to August 8, 2016. The CDC found the geographical locations of states with infections was found to be limited. The states with reported infections include Maryland (12), Arkansas (1), New York (3), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), Virginia (94), West Virginia (6), and Wisconsin (1).
To date, the CDC no longer has the Tropical Smoothie locations at risk of further spreading the Hepatitis A virus, as the restaurant announced it had ceased the sale and importation of the potentially impacted products within known states. Shortly after the further spread of the infection, Tropical Smoothie Café fully ceased the importation and sale of the potentially contaminated Egyptian strawberries in states without any illnesses reported.
The CDC and the FDA are asking customers who have consumed strawberry products from any Tropical Smoothie Café prior to August 8, 2016, in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina to contact your doctor if you think you may have become ill from eating contaminated strawberries from the restaurant.
Federal health officials are warning customers of Tropical Smoothie Café locations to be aware of symptoms, as the incubation period for symptoms of Hepatitis A may take up to 50 days to begin.
Although rare, Hepatitis A outbreaks still occur throughout the United States despite vaccination programs and can be easily transmitted to household or sexual partners through contaminated food or water.
Symptoms of the Hepatitis A virus include yellow eyes or skin, abdominal pain, pale stools, and/or dark urine. The virus is treatable through the use of antibiotics and vaccinations that can deplete the virus within days to weeks.
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