It took only a day for the first lawsuit to be filed.
Oahu resident Brant Mauk filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Genki Sushi and Koha Foods alleging negligence for serving him the likely source of Hawaii’s ongoing hepatitis A outbreak.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the Hawaii Department of Health had identified the outbreak’s likely culprit: imported frozen scallops distributed by Koha Foods, a Honolulu-based frozen-food wholesaler, and served raw by the restaurant chain Genki Sushi.
The department ordered 11 Oahu and Kauai locations of Genki Sushi, where the tainted scallops had been delivered, to close immediately.
But, by then, the department had confirmed 168 cases of the virus since June — including 46 hospitalizations — in what is the state’s worst outbreak in decades.
Mauk was among the first diagnosed victims of the outbreak.
Epidemiologist Sarah Park says the state’s work to contain the hepatitis A outbreak will continue for some time even after the likely source of the virus has been identified.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
According to the complaint, Mauk’s initial symptoms began with fatigue and nausea on June 28. A week later, he went to the Kaiser Permanente Mapunapuna Medical Office and was found to have an inflamed liver and tested positive for hepatitis A, which can sometimes lead to fatal liver failure.
Two days later, Mauk was sent home after he was given a vaccine — only to return to the emergency room later the same day and end up being hospitalized for a total of seven days.
“We may continue to see new cases with hepatitis A infection … because of how long ago people would have been exposed. Our work to control further spread of disease is not yet over.” — Sarah Park, state epidemiologist
“All dangers associated with the contaminated scallops were reasonably foreseeable and/or scientifically discoverable by the defendants at the time the defendants placed the scallops into the stream of commerce,” the complaint says.
Neither Genki Sushi nor Koha Food responded to Civil Beat’s request for comment.
But Mary Hansen, chief administrative officer of Genki Sushi, told Civil Beat’s media partner KITV on Tuesday: “Genki was shocked when we received the order to immediately close our restaurants on Oahu and Kauai … We immediately complied with the order.”
The manager of the company’s Pearlridge location also told the station that the restaurant lost about $12,000 worth of food, including 60 pounds of fish delivered Monday, as well as paper goods that had to be thrown away.
Even though the likely source of the outbreak has been identified, the running count of the victims is likely to increase, given that the virus, which is spread through tainted food or water, has a long incubation period of several weeks, even months.
The ramen restaurant is now on a growing list of Honolulu food establishments whose workers have been infected, including Baskin-Robbins, Chili’s and Taco Bell.
“We may continue to see new cases with hepatitis A infection like this person because of how long ago people would have been exposed,“ state epidemiologist Sarah Park said in a statement. “Our work to control further spread of disease is not yet over.”