RICHMOND, Va. -- A law firm representing several people who became sick, is filing a class action lawsuit against Tropical Smoothie Café in connection with a hepatitis A outbreak in Virginia.
To date, there have been 28 confirmed cases of hepatitis A linked to frozen strawberries used at the Cafe's across Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
The illnesses include five cases in central Virginia, 10 in northern Virginia, five in northwest Virginia, and eight in the eastern region of the state.
The law firm, Marler Clark, has already filled a lawsuit on the behalf of defendant, Constantinos A. Raptis, who became ill after consuming a tainted smoothie.
Marler Clark says a separate class action lawsuit representing all of the victims of the outbreak is expected to be filed on Friday.
Marler Clark is a Seattle-based firm specializing in food safety. The practice claims to be the only law firm in the nation with that focuses exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.
The law firm says Raptis contracted Hepatitis A after consuming a tainted smoothie at the Tropical Smoothie Café, located at 609 E. Main Street in Purcellville, Virginia.
According to the lawsuit, Raptis, a resident of Olney, Maryland, is a frequent customer of Tropical Smoothie Café and consumed a number of smoothies from the Café in early August.
Earlier this month, the VDH identified a link between frozen strawberries from Egypt that were used at Tropical Smoothie Cafés between August 5 and August 8, and hepatitis A.
“Restaurants often use imported ingredients because it’s more cost effective; however, there’s an inherent risk and one they are silently asking their customers to assume,” said William D. Marler of Marler Clark.
The VDH said they want anyone who consumed a smoothie with frozen strawberries at a restaurant with in the last 50 days to watch out for symptoms of hepatitis A.
The law firm says around August 12, Raptis started to become ill with symptoms that included achiness, headaches, nausea, and dark-colored urine as well as stomach and chest pains.
He was then diagnosed with hepatitis A and hospitalized from August 19 to 22. Marler Clark says he continues to suffer from complications of the illness.
“This outbreak was completely avoidable. Regrettably, now, many people are suffering debilitating injuries,” said Salvatore Zambri of Marler Clark.
Officials say classic symptoms of hepatitis A are fatigue, nausea, abdominal cramps and jaundice, the yellowing of the skin and eyes. Symptoms can develop 50 days after exposure.
The contagious disease most often spreads from person-to-person or is contracted through contaminated food or water.
People who have been vaccinated for hepatitis A are not at risk, officials said. Additionally, health experts stressed customers who consumed a smoothie after the strawberries were pulled from restaurants are not be at risk.
Virginia Department of Health would specifically name the Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations with the contaminated strawberries, but said all Virginia locations could be affected.