SIOUX CITY | An O'Neill, Neb., woman who says she got sick after eating at Olive Garden in Sioux City has filed a federal lawsuit against the restaurant chain's owner and the supplier of the salad mix linked to her illness.
An attorney for Joyce Nendza and her husband, William Nendza, filed the suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Sioux City. The civil action seeks unspecified damages from Florida-based Darden Corp., which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other chains, and Delaware-based Taylor Fresh Foods.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week said it had linked an outbreak of stomach illnesses in Iowa and Nebraska to salad mix served at local Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants and supplied by Taylor Farms de Mexico, Taylor's Mexican branch.
The outbreak of cyclospora infections has sickened more than 400 people in 16 states. The rare parasite causes a lengthy gastrointestinal illness, including diarrhea that lasts an average of 57 days.
Ryan Osterholm, who specializes in food-borne illness cases, said Nendza, a former nurse, was among the first to call his firm, Pritzker Olson Attorneys of Minneapolis, after she became ill.
"She said, 'I have cyclospora, and I think I got it at Olive Garden,'" Osterholm said.
The lawsuit said Nendza ate at Olive Garden on or about June 10 and started having symptoms about a week later. The illness started with fatigue and cramps, and the next day, Nendza starting suffering from frequent, uncontrollable diarrhea.
Nendza was diagnosed with cyclosporiasis July 1 and is taking antibiotics but is still suffering symptoms, the suit says.
"You're basically a prisoner in your own home, suffering from this," said Osterholm. "It is really, really, one of the worst things to go through."
Rich Jeffers, a Darden spokesman, said Monday the company wouldn’t comment on a lawsuit.
“We don’t have anything to add other than what I told you on Friday,” he said, referring to the company's statement saying Taylor Foods had supplied salad mix to restaurants in Iowa and Nebraska. The statement said state health authorities had determined the product was no longer in the food supply and that it was "completely safe" to eat in Darden's restaurants.
Osterholm has also filed a lawsuit by Kelly Kunc, of Hiawatha, Iowa, who he said ate at an Olive Garden in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
"I expect we will be filing additional lawsuits," Osterholm said.