Green Onions Suppliers Face Suit

Originally Published December 2, 2003

By Robert Baird, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Staff Writer

A federal lawsuit was filed Monday in Pittsburgh against four companies accused of distributing green onions to a Chi-Chi’s Restaurant in Beaver County.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Richard Miller, 57, and his wife, Linda, who ate at the restaurant on Oct. 12.

Both became ill in about two weeks, and Richard Miller suffered liver failure. He received a liver transplant at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center on Nov. 8.

The lawsuit is believed to be the first against green onion growers and suppliers in an outbreak that sickened 615 people, including three who died. It was filed by [Bill Marler of] the Seattle law firm Marler Clark and [Jerry Meyers then of] the Pittsburgh firm Meyers, Rosen, Louik& Perry, P.C. {Jerry Meyers, now of Meyers Evans Lupetin & Unatin, LLC}.

Named as defendants were Castellini Corp., of Wilder, Ky., a wholesaler and broker of green onions, and three California growers, shippers, wholesalers and brokers: Newstar Fresh Foods, LLC, of Salinas; Apio Fresh, LLC, of Guadalupe; and Boskovich Farms Inc., of Oxnard.

Green onions have been implicated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the source of outbreaks in Beaver County and three southern states.

“Mr. Miller faces an uncertain future. He was only recently released from the (intensive care unit). He now faces months of rehabilitation and a lifetime of medical complications — all from eating lunch containing these defendants’ tainted onions,” attorney William Marler, of Seattle, said in a news release.

Jerry Meyers, of the Pittsburgh law firm, said Miller, an estimator and engineer of plans for railroad tracks, has hospital bills that exceed $500,000.

Meyers said Chi-Chi’s provided the Millers’ attorneys with the names of the four companies that supplied green onions to the Beaver County restaurant.

Meyers said three previous lawsuits filed by his and Marler’s law firms against Chi-Chi’s were withdrawn without prejudice because of a stay in legal proceedings due to the restaurant’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He said those lawsuits could be refiled.

“We are pleased to learn that these lawsuits have been dismissed,” said Bill Zavertnik, chief operating officer for Chi-Chi’s Inc. “This action confirms our belief that Chi-Chi’s could not have done anything to prevent such an outbreak from occurring.”

Robert Baird can be reached at (412) 391-8650.



All articles in this blog are the collaborative effort of attorneys Jerry Meyers, Brendan Lupetin, and Gregory Unatin.

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