Jacksonville Restaurant Faces Multiple Lawsuits Over Contaminated Basils

Jul 30, 2019

A Jacksonville restaurant is facing lawsuits from customers who say they were hospitalized after eating contaminated basil.

Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant at the St. Johns Town Center was identified as part of a multi-state outbreak of the bacteria cyclospora. 

Andrew Moskowitz and James Walker have filed separate suits against the Jacksonville restaurant. Both are being represented by Houston-based attorney Ron Simmon, who said they’re missing work and racking up medical bills. 

"Cyclospora takes a little bit to get out of your system and to get you back to normal because, like I said, two of the main things that happen when you get a bad infection is you lose a lot of weight and you’re tired," he said. "So, both are recovering and I think both will be okay in the end, but it hasn’t been a pleasant month." 

He said Walker has lost 14 pounds since coming down with the illness last month. Simmon is seeking $50,000 for each of his clients. 

Along with Cooper's Hawk, the suits also name Jacksonville-based Garden Produce and Siga Logistics, the Mexican company that sold the contaminated basil. Simmon said he’s able to sue all three under what is known as strict liability.  

"That means if a company sells food that’s contaminated, whether they know it’s contaminated or not, they’re responsible for it," he said.    

Cyclospora is a microscopic parasite that causes intestinal infection and is spread by food that is contaminated with feces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common symptoms include nausea, fatigue, and diarrhea.  

"The investigation is still on-going. Cooper’s Hawk is also encouraging guests and the public who may have questions or concerns to reach out to our food safety/customer care line at 844-944-1444," wrote Cooper’s Hawk in a statement, to WJCT News partner News4Jax. 

WJCT News also reached out to Cooper’s Hawk but had not heard back by the time of this story's publishing. The statement to News4Jax, concluded with Cooper Hawk's writing:

"We are addressing out of pocket expenses, testing, etc. with guests that may have been ill regardless if you have representation. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our Guest[s], our Staff, and our Community."  

According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 132 people in 11 states have been made ill by the outbreak.