A woman who became ill with Clostridium perfrigens last month after eating food at an Evanston School District event has filed a lawsuit.

The suit against Merle’s BBQ Restaurant was filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of Beatrice Jenkins by the Seattle-based food safety law firm Marler Clark and Newland, Newland, and Newland of Arlington Heights. 

According to the complaint, Jenkins was volunteering Feb. 16 at Haven Middle School during parent-teacher conferences when she and her daughter ate food prepared by Merle’s BBQ Restaurant. The following morning, both Ms. Jenkins and her daughter became ill with severe gastrointestinal illness and were admitted to the emergency department at Evanston Hospital.


That same day, administrators from Evanston School District 65 notified the city of Evanston Health Department that 30 individual cases of foodborne illness had been reported by attendees of the previous night’s parent-teacher conferences.

According to a news release issued by the health department, the investigation revealed unsafe food handling and storage temperatures at both Merle’s BBQ Restaurant and the school. Barbeque pulled chicken contaminated with Clostridium perfrigens was determined to be the cause of the outbreak.

“This was an entirely avoidable outbreak, had proper food safety precautions been employed by Merle’s,” said Marler Clark attorney Drew Falkenstein, who noted that neither Jenkins nor her daughter have yet fully recovered from their illnesses.

Clostridium perfrigens are bacteria that produce toxins harmful to humans. Typical symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.