Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Who's Responsible?

Hepatitis A was cause of death, lawyer says

'An attorney for a Roane County man's family said Monday that Michael Smith died of complications from hepatitis A he allegedly contracted when he ate at an O'Charley's restaurant.


"The results (of a family-requested autopsy) were interpreted by one of Smith's treating specialists, and it was established that there was a likely link between hepatitis A and his death," said James K. Scott, attorney for Smiths' family. "In all likelihood if he hadn't eaten at O'Charley's, he wouldn't be dead."


Smith's family sued O'Charley's in Knox County Circuit Court for $17.5 million, alleging the restaurant failed to serve food that is safe and to take precautions against contamination.


With the help of the Knox County Health Department, East Tennessee Division of the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Health was able to identify green onions as the disease source.


"The FDA is quite convinced that the green onion contamination happened on the farm level in Mexico...We always encourage consumers to wash their produce."
So I don't understand - the contamination is almost certain to have occured in Mexico before the onions were ever shipped to the U.S. But since the suit against O'Charley's seems to be going forward, are they alleging that the onions simply weren't washed before preparation, and O'Charley's is at fault for the man's death? Or did they not do anything out of the ordinary, and the Hepatitis A virus survived standard preparation techniques?

If it's the latter, surely the lawsuit against O'Charley's (and, by extension, their employees) would have no merit.

I haven't heard this point addressed in any of the coverage - maybe I missed it.

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