Olive Garden has been sued at least five times by people claiming they contracted cyclospora after eating tainted salads. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has traced a tainted salad mix that caused the cyclospora outbreaks in Nebraska and Iowa to a company in Mexico. The cause of the outbreaks in Texas and other states are different and the FDA and other governmental agencies are still investigating. Fortunately, no one has died as a result of cyclosporiasis.
CYCLOSPORA AND CYCLOSPORIASIS
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Cyclospora Cayetanensis (Cyclospora) is a parasite that can cause intestinal infections. The actual infection is called, “Cyclosporiasis.”
- Cyclospora is spread by people ingesting something – such as food or water – that was contaminated with feces (stool).
- It is unlikely that cyclospora is passed directly from one person to another.
- In the United States, foodborne outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce.
- It usually takes about 1 week after contracting cyclospora to become sick.
- Cyclospora infects the small intestine (bowel) and can cause a number of symptoms including: watery diarrhea; frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements; loss of appetite; weight loss; stomach cramps/pain; bloating; increased gas; nausea; fatigue; vomiting; and other flu-like symptoms.
- Some people who are infected with cyclospora never have any symptoms.
- If not treated, cyclospora may last from a few days to a month or longer.
The CDC and FDA recommend that consumers should always practice safe food handling and preparation measures.
2013 CYCLOSPORA OUTBREAKS
The CDC and the FDA, along with state and local officials, are investigating the outbreak of cyclospora infections in 22 states.
On July 30, 2013, Nebraska and Iowa announced that the cyclosporiasis illnesses in their states were linked to a salad mix. The FDA, in a “Traceback Investigation” confirmed that the cyclospora infections identified in Nebraska and Iowa, which account for 242 of the total infections, were linked to salad mix prepared by Taylor Farms de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V. (“Taylor Farms”), a processor of foodservice salads, and used by Olive Gardens and Red Lobsters in both states. Taylor Farms, which has cooperated with officials since the beginning, voluntarily shut down operations shortly thereafter.
On August 25, 2013, the FDA announced that after it conducted an environmental assessment of Taylor Farms’ processing facility and the five farms identified through its Cyclospora Traceback investigation of the infections in Nebraska and Iowa. The FDA found that conditions and practices observed at the time of the assessment were in accordance with known food safety protocols. Taylor Farms has subsequently restarted operations.
As of September 10, 2013, the CDC has been notified of 646 cases of cyclospora infections with 44 people being hospitalized as a result (click on the image to enlarge):
At this time, both the CDC and FDA believe that only the Nebraska and Iowa infections are directly related. In addition, they cannot state whether all of the cases of cyclosporiasis in these other states are directly related to each other. At no time has the FDA found cyclospora in any salad mixes sold in grocery stores.
OLIVE GARDEN LAWSUITS
Olive Garden is owned by Orlando-based Darden Restaurants. There are at least 800 Olive Garden restaurants in the United States and Canada. Darden Restaurants also own and operate other restaurant franchises including: Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Yard House.
Olive Garden, as well as Darden Restaurants, has been sued at least five times by people alleging to have contracted cyclosporiasis as a result of eating contaminated salad mix.
Two of the lawsuits involve the same Olive Garden in Lincoln, Nebraska. Two of the other lawsuits were for restaurants in Iowa, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City. The case involving the Sioux City Olive Garden was filed by a Nebraska resident. It is believed that all of these Olive Garden’s received the tainted salad mix from Taylor Farms de Mexico.
The fifth lawsuit involves a Texas Olive Garden. This case is likely different than the others as that Olive Garden did not use salad mix from Taylor Farms. Medical testing did apparently confirm that the woman did have cyclospora although its source is unknown.
WHAT DAMAGES ARE AVAILABLE IN THESE LAWSUITS
It is not clear, as this Author has not been able to view, what damages are alleged in these cyclospora lawsuits. In the Nebraska lawsuits, assuming that the plaintiffs can prove their cases, they are entitled to be “compensated” for any injuries and damages they sustained as a result of contracting cyclosporiasis at the Olive Gardens. When the law refers to “compensation,” what it basically means is to try and place an injured person in the same position, so far as money can do it, as he or she would have been had there been no fault or injury caused by another person or company.
Compensation in cases like these can include, depending on a person’s injuries, money for any or all of the following:
- Costs of obtaining substitute domestic services;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of consortium (“Consortium” means those things to which a person is entitled by reason of marriage);
- Lost wages, salary, profits, employment and/or employment opportunities;
- Medical expenses;
- Mental suffering;
- Pain; and
If any injury is permanent, an injured person would be entitled to compensation for some or all of these items they will have in the future.
Under Nebraska law, unlike most other states, an injured person cannot receive punitive damages against an at-fault party. Punitive damages are damages over-and-above compensatory damages and are awarded as a punishment and to set an example to deter other people or entities from malicious, willful or fraudulent actions or omissions.
If you live in Nebraska and you contracted cyclosporiasis after eating at an Olive Garden contact Lapin Law Offices to learn more about your rights and options. We offer a free consultation and there is no fee if we do not collect money for you.
- 10/11 Now: Nebraska Woman Files Lawsuit Against Restaurant Following Outbreak
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Cyclosporiasis FAQs
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Investigation of an Outbreak of Cyclosporiasis in the United States
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Parasites – Cyclosporiasis (Cyclospora Infection)
- Darden: Home Page
- FDA: FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of Cyclosporiasis
- KMTV: Lawsuits Filed Over Recent Cyclospora Outbreak
- Lincoln Journal Star: Another Cyclospora lawsuit filed
- Luke Villapaz / International Business Times: Texas Woman Sues Darden Restaurants: Alleges She Contracted Cyclospora Infection From Olive Garden
- Nebraska Revised Statutes: 25-21,185.08. Civil actions to which contributory negligence is a defense; terms, defined.
- Olive Garden: About Us
- Omaha.com: Texas mother, son sue company over Cyclospora