Third lawsuit filed over illness linked to SJ restaurant

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) -- A third lawsuit was filed today against the owners of a Mexican seafood restaurant in San Jose that has been linked with nearly 200 people becoming sick, including dozens with confirmed cases of a contagious diarrhoeal disease.

Andres Guerra of San Jose filed the lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court alleging negligence by the owners of Mariscos San Juan #3 restaurant at 205 N. Fourth St. He suffered from shigella after eating a shrimp cocktail from the business on Oct. 16.

There are 188 people who have fallen ill in association with the restaurant, which has been closed since Oct. 18, Santa Clara public health officials said Tuesday.

The total includes 150 Santa Clara County residents and 38 people in other counties, according to public health officials.

Laboratory tests have confirmed 85 of the cases to be shigella, with 65 in Santa Clara County and 20 combined in Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Alameda, Marin and Merced counties, public health officials said today.

After eating the shrimp cocktail on Oct. 16, Guerra suffered chills, developed a fever, vomited, was "intensely nauseated," and had diarrhea later that day, according to the lawsuit.

The symptoms continued on Oct. 17, which led him to seek treatment at a Kaiser Permanente medical facility intensive care unit and was discharged two days later, the suit states.

A majority of the sick ate at the restaurant on Oct. 16 or 17 before the location was closed on Oct. 18.

The suit was filed through the firms Rains Lucia Stern, PC, in San Francisco, and Marler Clark in Seattle, Washington, which also filed last week two separate suits on behalf of two other San Jose men, Daniel Estrada and Gregory Meissner, who both also had shigella after eating at the restaurant within the two days before it closed.

In all three complaints, the owners are identified as Sergio Becerra Cruz and Lourdes Garcia Becerra. The plaintiffs seek a jury trial and unspecified damages including medical expenses, lost wages, emotional distresses and other losses.

Santa Clara County's Department of Environmental Health is investigating what led to the outbreak. An Oct. 18 inspection report posted online showed the restaurant did not properly cool food including shrimp broth and octopus.

People can catch shigella if they come into contact with or digest food prepared by an infected person, public health officials said.

Those with the disease experience symptoms including diarrhea that can sometimes be bloody, fever, abdominal pain and vomiting within one to two days of exposure, public health officials said.

The symptoms can continue for five days to a week. People can fully recover, but their bowel behavior can take months to stabilize, public health officials said.

The public has been advised to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to stop the disease from spreading, health officials said.

In Alameda County, 10 adults and a child were found with shigella, county public health spokeswoman Sherri Willis said.

Santa Cruz County has received reports of three confirmed shigella cases, two secondary cases and two suspected cases, public health spokeswoman Jessica Randolph said.

San Mateo County health officials said there are three shigella cases and they have not received any new reports since last Wednesday.

A Marin County family of four ate at the restaurant and one of them was found with shigella, deputy public health officer Lisa Santora said.

As of Monday, Merced County had two confirmed cases of shigella and four suspected cases, public health director Kathleen Grassi said.

One of the six people is a San Benito County resident who ate at the seafood eatery with one of the five Merced County residents, Grassi said.