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Hardee’s hepatitis scare sent 2,000 for treatment. Now, customers seek damages.

Customers of a Hardees on Little Rock Road, where a worker was found in June to be infected with Hepatitis A, line up at the health department office on Beatties Ford Road for vaccinations. A new class-action lawsuit accuses restaurant owners of negligence in putting some 4,000 customers at risk of contracting the disease.
Customers of a Hardees on Little Rock Road, where a worker was found in June to be infected with Hepatitis A, line up at the health department office on Beatties Ford Road for vaccinations. A new class-action lawsuit accuses restaurant owners of negligence in putting some 4,000 customers at risk of contracting the disease. Charlotte

A Hepatitis scare in June at a Hardee’s in west Charlotte that led to the treatment of thousands of customers has now spurred a class-action lawsuit against the restaurant owners.

The complaint, originally filed in Mecklenburg County, surfaced in federal court on Friday. In it, two Hardee’s customers who say they ate at the restaurant on Little Rock Road after an employee was found to be infected with Hepatitis A accuse the owners of negligence and other failings.

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They want damages “in excess of $25,000” on each of three counts, the lawsuit says.

The eventual list of accusers in the case could be a long one. Health officials urged more than 4,000 people who ate at the Hardee’s between June 13 and June 23 to get vaccinations. According to the Mecklenburg County Health Department, 2,132 people eventually received them.

The Hardee’s employee was one of five Hepatitis A cases that surfaced in Charlotte-Mecklenburg in early June. According to an Observer article at the time, county health officials believed the worker, who had “limited contact” with food, contracted the disease’s virus outside the restaurant, which is near Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and Interstate 85.

The June outbreak is part of an ongoing spike in Hepatitis A across Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Through Friday, the county has had 18 confirmed cases. That’s more than the three previous years combined, county records indicate.

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The two plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who are identified only by their initials, were among the Hardee’s customers vaccinated during the scare. Both were told they had to receive another vaccination in six months.

“The plaintiffs and class members must now undergo medical treatment for their injuries ... and have to live with severe emotional and mental anguish due to defendants’ negligence,” the lawsuit says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the disease, which strikes the liver, is caused worldwide most often by the consumption of contaminated food and water.

In the United States and other developed countries, the disease generally spreads through households and sexual activity. The symptoms, which include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, jaundice and joint pain, can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

The lawsuit names CKE Restaurant Holdings, which bought the Hardee’s chain in 1997. Other defendants include Hardee’s Food Systems LLC of North Carolina and Hardee’s Restaurant LLC of Delaware along with Morning Star NC LLC, which owned and operated the Hardee’s on Little Rock Road.

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According to its website, CKE owns more than 3,300 restaurants in 42 states and 28 countries. Its brands include Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.

The company did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095; @MikeGordonOBS
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