The Saga Involving Chipotle Mexican Grill Continues, with Massachusetts Students Allegedly Sickened and Federal Criminal Charges a Possibility Elsewhere

In November, we told you about accusations – and a civil lawsuit – against national restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill. Since then, the number of customers allegedly sickened after consuming food in the restaurants has climbed significantly, with a number of Massachusetts consumers (including dozens of Boston College students) now included in the total.

Now, federal officials are apparently considering whether the restaurant chain’s conduct arose to the level of criminal culpability. According to news reports earlier this month, a subpoena has been issued in an investigation concerning a Chipotle restaurant in California by the United States Department of Justice and the United States Food and Drug Administration. It will be up to a federal grand jury to decide whether to pursue criminal charges.

Allegations in the Possible Criminal Case

The subpoena issued in California comes after several customers were allegedly sickened with the norovirus, a highly contagious disease that can spread when infected food workers touch raw food (such as that served by Chipotle). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, norovirus causes the stomach or intestines to become inflamed, leading to possible vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain. For some, the symptoms can be very serious (especially children and the elderly).

The government estimates that between 570 and 800 people die each year because of the norovirus. As many as 70,000 people are hospitalized annually because of the illness. Some people refer to the norovirus as “food poisoning or “stomach flu,” but it is not related to influenza.

Although the details of the criminal case have not been fully disclosed, the charges may be related to alleged safety violations that may have contributed to the outbreak of norovirus at the particular Chipotle in California, as well as a possible delay between the time that restaurant representatives became aware of a possible problem and the time that a report was made to public officials.

Colleges Students May Have Been Sickened by Chipotle in Massachusetts

In December, it was reported that several dozen students from Boston College had complained of illness after eating at a Chipotle here in Massachusetts. Local health inspection officials found several possible violations at the restaurant, including an instance of an employee working while sick. The students’ gastrointestinal symptoms were thought to be related to norovirus, rather than E. coli (as was the case in some other cases of Chipotle-related illnesses last fall).

It is likely that some of those injured will seek monetary compensation for their injuries in civil court, most likely alleging that Chipotle’s negligence caused them to become ill. The burden of proof in civil cases alleging negligence is a “preponderance of the evidence,” rather than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required in criminal proceedings.

To Talk to a Lawyer About Your Case

If you have been hurt by the negligence of a person, business, or governmental entity, you should speak to an attorney about your legal rights. To talk to an experienced Cape Cod personal injury attorney, contact the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, at (888) 262-6664 and ask for a free, confidential consultation of your case. We have offices in both Hyannis and Plymouth, from which we serve clients throughout the Cape Cod area, as well as elsewhere in Massachusetts.

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