Two customers who say they contracted the highly contagious Shigella bacteria after ordering from a San Jose restaurant have sued the restaurant, claiming they fell ill with severe gastrointestinal symptoms after eating the Mexican seafood.
The lawsuits, filed Wednesday in Santa Clara County by the high-profile San Francisco law firm Rains Lucia and Stern on behalf of customers Gregory Meissner and Daniel Estrada, alleges negligence, product liability and breach of implied warranty. A Seattle law firm that specializes in food poisoning is helping spearhead the case. On Wednesday, an attorney for that firm, Bill Marler, said he has three more customers who contacted him about possibly seeking legal action after they got sick. He expected to file on their behalf as well.
Meissner and Estrada are suing Sergio Becerra Cruz and Lourdes Garcia Becerra, owners of Mariscos San Juan No. 3 at 205 N. Fourth Street. The owners have declined repeated requests for interviews.
Meissner said he ordered ceviche tostada at the restaurant on Oct. 16. Ceviche is a Latin American seafood dish typically made from raw fish cured in citrus juices.
The next day, according to his lawsuit, “fell ill with severe gastrointestinal symptoms” that included chills, cramps, diarrhea, a fever, headache and dizziness – classic symptoms of Shigella. He was taken to the emergency room at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose and diagnosed with the infectious bacteria -- most commonly acquired through fecal matter -- the suit alleges.
In an interview with NBC Bay Area on Wednesday, Meissner said "I think it is reasonable after the amount of physical suffering to have some kind of compensation."
The other lawsuit said Estrada ate food, which wasn't described, at the restaurant on Oct. 17. Two days later, Estrada began to experience body aches and believed he was becoming ill with a common flu, according to the suit.
"Late that same night, however, he began to experience severe gastrointestinal symptoms, including chills, fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps," the lawsuit said.
Estrada saw a doctor on Oct. 20 and was directed to get to an emergency department for treatment.
Since being discharged from the hospital, Estrada continues to suffer from the effects of Shigellosis illness, according to the lawsuit.
The suits claim that the restaurant owners had a duty to keep their workplace clean and make sure their customers do not get sick by using “reasonable care.”
Meissner said he is starting to feel better and hopes other restaurants will be more vigilant.
"That's what I really want, for people to get the message," he said. "It's a simple thing. Wash your hands."
Santa Clara County health officials said Wednesday 93 people have reported being sick with Shigella, and 24 of those were confirmed at the lab. A “vast majority” of the patients ate at the same San Jose seafood restaurant, according to Santa Clara County Deputy Health Officer Dr. George Han.
Meanwhile, the San Mateo County Health Department late Wednesday confirmed two cases of Shigella linked to the San Jose restaurant outbreak. Health officials in Santa Cruz County also said they were investigating five reported cases of Shigella.
NBC Bay Area's Kris Sanchez, Ian Cull, Michelle Roberts and Kristofer Noceda contributed to this report.