Two more E. coli lawsuits were filed today in Snohomish County, WA against Ixtapa Bajaras, Inc., a Washington State family Mexican restaurant. Ixtapa Barajas, located in Lake Stevens, WA, was the site of an E. coli outbreak that took place in October 2008.
The Washington State Department of Health and Snohomish County Health District ultimately determined that food linked to the outbreak sickened as many as 64 people. Four confirmed cases were hospitalized, and one developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe complication of E. coli that can lead to kidney failure.
The two lawsuits yesterday were filed by Marler Clark, L.L.P. on behalf of plaintiffs Robert Perasso and Brett Blankenship. Marler Clark, a Seattle-based law firm that specializes in foodborne illness litigation, filed the first E. coli lawsuit against Ixtapa on October 22, 2008.
Perasso and Blankenship, who both required substantial medical treatment as a result of their E. coli infections, allege that insanitary conditions and practices within the Ixtapa restaurant led to the E. coli outbreak. A subsequent investigation conducted by Washington Health Department officials concluded the following:
We learned that they don’t wear gloves all the time. Primarily the cooks have bhc [bare-handed-contact] at night when there is less chance someone will catch them without gloves. Also, the wait staff use bare hands on tortillas both before and after they are warmed in the steamer. They use a scoop to put chips in a basket but bare hands assist this process.
They do not regularly use sanitizer and they don’t know how to check the concentration of the sanitizer. We found buckets without sanitizer and many wiping cloths without sanitizer too. This indicates a lack of ability to properly clean and sanitize work areas.
The cutting boards and wiping cloths are all stained and or very dirty. Their outer clothing and dry towels are frequently used for hand cleaning as they too are very dirty with food debris. The stains are from both raw meat and other foods indicating a lack of cross contamination control.
With the addition of Perasso and Blankenship, Marler Clark now represents seven families involved in the Ixtapa restaurant E. coli outbreak.