Salmonella is on the list of foods in a Minnesota’s restaurant has many violations of health lawsaccording to a complaint filed Jan. 11 in Dakota County.
This time, a 34-year-old man became ill and was hospitalized due to salmonella after eating at West St. Paul Great Moon Buffet in November 2021, just a few months after the third outbreak at the restaurant. The Pritzker Hageman firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of plaintiff Joseph Ramos seeking more than $50,000 in medical expenses, pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Great Moon Buffet is a pan-Asian buffet restaurant with multiple locations in Minnesota. It was linked to three previous salmonella outbreaks back in 2018. The fourth salmonella outbreak, which made Ramos seriously ill, led to an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health. After the investigation, the ministry said it was “worse than previous visits.”
The MDH inspection, which took place on December 14, 2021, found restaurant workers washing their hands in a bucket instead of a box, using a dirty towel to dry them. Rodent waste, as well as a dead rodent, were found near the preparation site. Dead insects were found behind dry shelves. In addition, a live chicken was found in the dining area.
There were also many sources of infection. Raw chicken prepared in a large blender is sprinkled over bags and containers. The radiators were leaking grease and grime onto the cookware. The restaurant also continued to use the hose to wash the floor, despite being ordered by MDH to stop using it. Using the hose caused pools of salmonella to splash onto the floor in the food.
The restaurant was ordered to close after the inspection pending extensive repairs. A follow-up visit in Jan. 13, 2022, revealed that many serious violations are still occurring. The MDH said they could not “think of a greater criminal” than Great Moon Buffet. Despite this, the restaurant is still operating.
Minnesota attorneys reached out to the Minnesota Department of Health for comment but did not hear back as of press time.
Pritzker Hageman’s attorney, Raymond Trueblood-Konz, said the fact that Great Moon Buffet can still operate is not MDH’s fault.
“Minnesota has a wonderful health department, one of the best in the country, if not the best. But their authority is limited, even in response to a criminal like the Great Moon Buffet,” said Trueblood-Konz.
In a previous case in July 2021, an 11-year-old girl became ill after eating watermelon that had been contaminated by using the hose to clean the kitchen floor. Pritzker Hageman represented the girl, and the parties settled.
Around the time Pritzker Hageman filed that first lawsuit against Great Moon Buffet, the fourth salmonella outbreak occurred. Many people have contacted Pritzker Hageman about getting food poisoning at the restaurant.
Trueblood-Konz believes settling on the watermelon box caused the restaurant to reevaluate its practices.
“Claims can be submitted to insurance companies that have a problem.” Trueblood-Konz said. “In the face of the risk of losing insurance, smart businesses correct those problems to satisfy their insurance. These three forces—public health authorities, the supervision of insurance companies, and the government courts—they’ve all put pressure on businesses like this to go up or close.”
While Great Moon Buffet is a criminal, it is far from the only Minnesota restaurant that has made its patrons seriously ill. Pritzker Hageman has represented hundreds of consumers from all over the country during many outbreaks.
MDH records salmonellosis data. In 2020, 660 cases were reported. Those numbers appear to be less than they actually are. This is because most people with mild symptoms recover at home. In addition, doctors must identify the pathogen involved and then report the illness to public health authorities.
Most people who get sick from foodborne illnesses don’t know they have the rules, Trueblood-Konz said. Not only can filing a lawsuit allow them to receive compensation for their injuries, but it can also force restaurants to address violations.
“If more people came forward to respond to their previous illnesses, these forces may have caused the Great Moon Buffet to clean up its previous activities,” said Trueblood-Konz.
Great Moon Buffet did not return requests for comment.