Industry Favorite Fig & Olive Hit With Lawsuit Claiming Salmonella Contamination

THR Fig & Olive - H 2015
Lisa Cohen

THR Fig & Olive - H 2015

Fig & Olive now is facing what likely is the first of several lawsuits from diners who claim the West Hollywood restaurant gave them salmonella.

The eatery, which ranked No. 14 on The Hollywood Reporter's annual Power Lunch survey in 2014, is under investigation by the L.A. County Department of Health after numerous diners reported symptoms of the disease.

In a statement to THR, the Department said seven people who reported eating there between Sept. 6 and Sept. 11 were confirmed with the same strain of salmonella, as were three employees.

The restaurant currently is open, and the Department of Public Health "knows of no ongoing risk." The Department is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration to pinpoint the source of the salmonella.

"A week ago, we voluntarily closed our West Hollywood location for a brief time after some diners and employees reported they had become sick," said the restaurant in a statement Sept. 25. "After taking steps to ensure that all food preparation and safety standards were being followed, that food stocks were safe, and all employees had been screened, the restaurant reopened the same day with the Health Department’s approval."

The cases in Los Angeles coincide with a larger outbreak of salmonella connected to the Washington, D.C. location of Fig & Olive, which reopened Sept. 16 after being closed for six days. Over 60 people in five states became ill from the restaurant, and the D.C. Department of Health is investigating 150 more cases.

In recent weeks, diners who claim to have contracted salmonella at the Washington, D.C. eatery have filed two lawsuits against the restaurant. Now a patron of the West Hollywood location has done the same.

In the complaint filed Monday, Nichole Berteau says she dined at Fig & Olive in West Hollywood Sept. 9 (and ordered the Chilean sea bass and appetizers including the truffle mushroom croquette, sea scallops and burrata and heirloom tomato caprese). She says she became ill with "severe gastrointestinal symptoms" Sept. 11 and was hospitalized from Sept. 19-26.

She claims violations of federal and California health laws, breach of implied warranty (the claim the restaurant served food with the implication it would be safe for diners), negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. She does not specify damages.

She is represented by Bill Marler of Marler Clark, a Seattle attorney who primarily litigates cases over food-borne illnesses and filed the lawsuits over salmonella at Fig & Olive's D.C. location.

Her case comes after a different firm, Pritzker Olsen, announced it’s preparing a lawsuit on behalf of diners who contracted salmonella at the West Hollywood location. The firm's Ryan Osterholm tells THR he will file "one if not more" lawsuits within the week.

In response to the Department of Health's confirmation of 10 salmonella cases, Osterholm tells THR, "There are for sure, without a doubt, many more cases than that."

THR has requested comment on the lawsuit from representatives of the restaurant.