Richard Miller - The 2003 Chi-Chi’s Hepatitis A Outbreak
On October 13, 2003, Richard Miller and his wife Linda stopped by Chi-Chi’s restaurant in Monaca, Pennsylvania to grab lunch, and left with a Hepatitis A virus. Later in the month, both fell ill with body aches, loss of appetite and energy, and jaundice. But while Linda recovered within a few days, Richard’s case grew more severe. When he became incoherent and unable to stand, he was admitted to the hospital, sedated and eventually put on life support. Richard ultimately required a liver transplant, during which he suffered cardiac arrest. He pulled through the operation, only to begin a new life in which his former abilities were severely compromised and his life span may have been shortened.
In his own words, Miller said, “I don’t have my life any more. I don’t like it. I’ll never have it back. I got this monkey on my back. I feel like I’m a burden to Linda.”
The food that changed Rich Miller’s life forever turned out to be green onions imported from Mexico that had been served raw in salsa at the restaurant, as well as in many other Chi-Chi’s dishes.
During its investigation into the outbreak, the Pennsylvania Department of Health identified 650 cases of Hepatitis A originating with the imported onions. Four victims eventually died from fulminant hepatitis brought on by hepatitis A infection.
Bill Marler called upon Chi-Chi’s to take responsibility for the outbreak and pay for victims’ lost wages. Though Chi-Chi’s had filed for bankruptcy shortly before the outbreak, Marler was able to lift the protection that would have allowed the restaurant to avoid compensating victims.
Marler Clark successfully resolved 78 claims on behalf of victims of the Chi-Chi’s Hepatitis A outbreak, and obtained a 6.25 million dollar settlement for Richard and Linda Miller.
The law firm also filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all 9,000 people who had received immune globulin shots due to risk of exposure to the virus after eating at the restaurant. By the time the deadline for completed forms had passed, 4,991 claimants had joined the suit. An $800,000 settlement was distributed among them.