Restaurant sued over salmonella outbreak

Steamboat man filed complaint after December incident

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— A Steamboat Springs man is suing BLT Restaurants LLC for damages and expenses related to a salmonella outbreak last December at Seasons at the Pond.

BLT Restaurants is the parent company of Seasons at the Pond.

Robert Morris is the plaintiff in the complaint filed Friday in Routt County District Court by Morris' attorney, Michele Desoer.

Morris, the majority owner of Excavation Specialists Inc., contracted salmonellosis when he ate at Seasons at the Pond in December, the complaint alleges. The lawsuit alleges the restaurant was negligent and that Morris accumulated medical and hospital bills in excess of $11,000 as a result of the infection.

Desoer said Morris was disabled for two weeks and experienced ongoing symptoms.

Under Colorado law, a plaintiff cannot sue for a specific dollar amount, Desoer said. Any monetary compensation will be decided in court, if the case reaches that point.

Seasons at the Pond co-owner Bill Lepper said he had not received a copy of the complaint. He declined further comment, but said the restaurant's insurance company and lawyer are handling issues related to the December outbreak.

Desoer said failed negotiations with the insurance company spurred the lawsuit.

A Routt County Department of Environmental Health and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment investigation identified 51 cases of salmonellosis related to the outbreak. Of the 51 cases, 26 tested positive for salmonella Newport, the specific type of salmonella in this outbreak, according to the state health department's report.

All but two of the cases infected residents of Routt County. Nine of the cases were restaurant employees. Three patients were hospitalized.

Based on evidence gathered during the investigation, salmonella transmission most likely occurred through consumption of contaminated fruit salad, according to the state report. Seasons at the Pond obtains its fruit through a national distributor, but it's unlikely the fruit was contaminated before it reached the restaurant because no other matching cases of salmonella Newport were discovered during the outbreak period, according to the state report. More likely, the report states, is that a restaurant worker contaminated the fruit or fruit salad.

No additional cases of salmonellosis were reported after the outbreak period.

The state's report noted the restaurant's kitchen was very clean and that restaurant personnel followed food safety procedures well.

Additionally, the report noted restaurant officials imposed stricter-than-recommended guidelines for their employees following confirmation of the outbreak.

Salmonellosis is the illness caused by salmonella bacteria. Approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported each year in the United States, but the actual number of infections is probably much greater because mild cases often aren't reported, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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