A Willard man who claims he fell violently ill after eating at Casa Fiesta in late April is suing the Norwalk restaurant.
In a lawsuit filed in Huron County Common Pleas Court this week, Kody Dewitt, of the 600 block of South Myrtle Ave., is seeking more than $25,000 in damages for the hospital bills and hardships he claims resulted from eating at the Mexican restaurant, court documents show.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of an Ohio Department of Health investigation into 26 confirmed cases of salmonella food poisoning. The investigation found that all of the patients ate at Casa Fiesta, 196 Milan Avenue, said Tim Hollinger, Huron County health commissioner.
The restaurant voluntarily closed its doors last Thursday to have all of its food samples tested for the bacteria. The restaurant also underwent an extensive cleaning and threw away all of its supply, health officials said.
"We went back when they were done and re-inspected and they've done everything we asked," Hollinger said.
Laboratory tests on the food samples came back negative Wednesday, health department officials said. None of the food samples tested were the source of the bacteria.
Even though all 26 cases involved people who ate at the restaurant, health officials cannot say for sure where the bacteria originated.
"If you ask the 26 what they ate, they all ate something different," Hollinger said. "It can be on ice, it can be in vegetables, it can be in meat. It can be anywhere."
The lab tests on employees won't return until Friday at the earliest, health officials said.
The civil suit contends that shortly after Dewitt ate at the Norwalk eatery on April 25, he grew terribly sick and required hospitalization.
The premise of the legal action is that Dewitt had a loss of wages because of the poisoning. The suit also claims that Dewitt sustained bodily injury and permanent damage that will forever limit his earning capability.
Managers at Casa Fiesta could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported each year.
Symptoms of salmonella food poisoning include fever, dehydration, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. In a fraction of the cases, the infection spreads and can cause death.
Usually, however, the infection's complications disappear within a week.
Long-term effects do occur in a small number of the cases. A few of the afflicted develop lasting pain in their joints, irritated eyes and painful urination, the CDC reports. Called Reiter's syndrome, the condition can lead to life-long arthritis.
The 26 cases under review by the health department all show the "classic symptoms," Hollinger said. None showed signs of developing into Reiter's.
Even so, local news agencies report that other people who claim they were sickened by food at Casa Fiesta plan to sue.
Dewitt's attorney, James Martin, could not be reached for comment.