Hepatitis A patient files first lawsuit against companies linked to outbreak

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A food safety attorney with experience handling hepatitis A cases has flown in from Seattle to represent 12 of the Oahu victims.

“It’s a big one. With 206 people, it’s the second largest outbreak I’ve been involved in,” said attorney Bill Marler.

Marler says his clients described the infection as having “the worst flu you’ve ever had, but having it for two to three months.”

As an example of the prolonged impact, Marler said, “I was talking to a young mom today who is three weeks out of the hospital, but she is still jaundiced. Her eyes are so yellow, her children refuse to go out of the house with her unless she puts on sunglasses.”

So far, one lawsuit was officially filed against Genki Sushi, Koha Foods, and Sea Port, but Marler promises more will follow.

“A class-action lawsuit doesn’t work really well when you have people who may have been sick for a week to people then facing kidney failure and transplant,” Marler explained. “There’s such a wide variety of damages that each person really needs to be handled individually so a class-action suit really isn’t the best mechanism to do that.”

Under Hawaii law, all restaurants must display a message on their menu letting customers know of the risk of foodborne illnesses with raw or undercooked foods.

“Can your clients really pursue a lawsuit against Genki Sushi?” KHON2 asked.

“I’ve been doing these cases for 25 years. Most restaurants have those placards. That does not mean people don’t have the right to seek compensation for what they went through. Having that notice is not a defense to selling scallops that are contaminated with human feces, which is really what this is,” responded Marler.

Meanwhile, medical centers across Oahu are making sure their vaccine supply doesn’t run out.

“We’ve been going through well over 600 doses a day, and of course, we have our supplies all over our pharmacies throughout the region,” said Trishia Herbert, RN, at Kaiser Permanente.

With so many people wanting the vaccine, is there a possibility Hawaii will run out?

“Because this is a local outbreak, not from the mainland, I don’t foresee any problem getting vaccines here eventually. People may need to wait 24 hours, but pharmacies are continuing to replenish their stock,” said Dr. James Ireland.

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