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California couple sues Souplantation parent

Wife and son fell ill amid shigellosis outbreak

A California couple filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Cerberus Capital Management LP, parent to the Souplantation chain, after the wife and son fell ill amid a shigella bacteria outbreak linked to a restaurant in Camarillo, Calif.

The lawsuit came the same day the Souplantation restaurant in Camarillo reopened, after voluntarily closing on June 22 due to the illness. A dozen cases of shigellosis have been found, according to the Ventura Country Public Health Department, with 11 of them among customers and one in a restaurant employee. 

Dr. Robert Levin, the Ventura County public health officer, told the Ventura County Star that five of the 12 people were hospitalized. The precise source of the outbreak had not been identified. 

The Souplantation restaurant was closed for five days to dispose of food, sanitize the facility, train for food safety, and get a final approval to reopen from Ventura County officials.

The health department said Souplantation’s chief operating officer joined a vice president and quality assurance manager at the location.

“All employees are being put through a sanitary training refresher course, the restaurant is being thoroughly cleaned, and all food on the premises is being thrown out,” the department said in a press release.

“Souplantation’s actions have been exemplary. This is the kind of swift and decisive action which leads to a collaboration with public health that results in a rapid resolution of the problem,” Levin said. 

All employees were tested and required to be cleared before returning to work, the department said. The restaurant employs about 40 people.

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, Kevin and Cathryn Walker of Camarillo said their son fell ill after they ate at the restaurant. He suffered diarrhea and a 102-degree fever, according to the suit.

A test confirmed the presence of shigella bacteria, and the boy was taken to the emergency room for intravenous fluids, and eventually returned to the hospital due to dehydration.

Cathryn Walker also tested positive for shigella bacteria after becoming sick with vomiting and diarrhea. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for medical expenses and emotional distress.

The lawsuit was filed by Quirk Law Firm of Ventura, Calif., and the Marler Clark firm of Seattle, which specializes in foodborne illness litigation. 

Cerberus Capital acquired Garden Fresh Corp. out of bankruptcy in January.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless 

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