Settlement reached over 2016 hepatitis A outbreak

KAILUA-KONA — A preliminary settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit filed against Genki Sushi, a distributor and an importer responsible for the 2016 hepatitis A outbreak that infected nearly 300 people and exposed many others to the virus.

Qualified class members have until Nov. 29 to file a claim seeking up to $350 of the $4.5 million preliminary settlement, which was announced Friday by Seattle-based Marler Clark, the nation’s food safety law firm, and Hawaii-based firms Perkin and Faria, and Starn, O’Toole, Marcus, and Fisher.

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“This is the only time, and you have until the end of November to submit a claim,” said Norman Cheng, a managing partner at Honolulu-based Starn, O’Toole, Marcus, and Fisher. “After that, you won’t be able to participate. So, we encourage people that have been affected to sign up and to submit the claim forms as soon as possible.”

The suit, filed amid the outbreak in August 2016, names Genki Sushi, Koha Foods and Sea Port Products as defendants.

It covers anyone who received a hepatitis A vaccination after eating at a restaurant during an infected employee’s exposure window, but did not become infected, and obtained preventative medical treatment within 14 days of exposure, such as receiving immune globulin, HAV vaccine or blood test.

It’s unknown how many potential plaintiffs there are in the class as people have until the end of November to file a claim, Cheng said.

The hepatitis A outbreak, which occurred between mid-June and October 2016, infected 292 people in Hawaii. Nearly all of the cases were among Oahu residents with just 11 cases reported on Hawaii Island, Kauai and Maui. Seven cases were among visitors.

Ultimately, 74 people required hospitalization amid the outbreak, according to the department.

Health officials declared the outbreak over in January 2017, noting at that time that health care providers reported 90,259 hepatitis A vaccinations were administered in the state between July and November 2016.

State health officials on Aug. 15, 2016, linked the outbreak to scallops served at Genki Sushi restaurants in Oahu and Kauai. It also ordered an embargo on frozen scallops distributed by Koha Oriental Foods.

The Department of Health later announced that lab tests turned up positive results for hepatitis A in Sea Port Bay scallops, which originated in the Philippines and are imported by Sea Port Products Corp.

During the outbreak, several food service employees were diagnosed with hepatitis A, prompting the Department of Health to issue advisories to customers about potentially receiving a vaccination.

Qualified members of the class action litigation are entitled to receive up to $350, according to Marler Clark. Claims can be submitted online at www.hawaiihepa.com or by calling (800) 532-9250.

Those who were in contact with one of the 292 people whom the Hawaii Department of Health identified as being infected with Hepatitis A are eligible for up to $350, according to the law firm.

Anyone who consumed food on or between Aug. 1-16, 2016, at one of 13 Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu, Kauai, and Maui is eligible for up to $250, according to the law firm.

Up to $150 can be claimed by class members who were exposed as a result of consumption of food or drink from secondary establishments where an employee infected as part of the 2016 Hepatitis A outbreak was found to have worked, according to the law firm.

Just one Hawaii Island location was included as a secondary establishment, Sushi Shiono in the Queens’ MarketPlace in Waikoloa. People must have consumed food or beverages at the establishment between July 12-15 and 18-21, 2016.

In the case of the Big Island establishment, an employee at the Waikoloa restaurant was diagnosed with hepatitis A after reportedly contracting the illness on Oahu. On Aug. 10, 2016, the company said all its 25 employees at the Waikoloa location had tested negative for hepatitis A.

Twelve Hawaiian Airlines flights to or from Kona are also included as secondary establishments in the preliminary settlement. They are Flight 118, flight 117, flight 382, flight 383, flight 396, and flight 365 on July 24; flight 273, flight 68, and flight 65 on July 25; flight 147 on July 26; flight 18 on Aug. 10; and flight 17 on Aug. 12.

Sushi Shiono, which is not a defendant in the case, did not respond to request for comment as of press time on Friday.

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A hearing to finalize the settlement is slated Dec. 11 in Honolulu.

For more information, to submit a claim, or to file an objection to the settlement or to request exclusion, visit www.hepahawaii.com.

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