That’s a lot of clams for some bad oysters.
A jury in Florida awarded a couple $6.7 million after a restaurant served them oysters that caused food poisoning and led to a rare disorder for one of them that could’ve ended in paralysis.
The jury ruled in favor of Angel Martinez and his wife, Marie Elena Martinez, in May after their December 2013 meal at Lobster Haven on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa. On their eleventh visit to the restaurant, the couple ordered their usual feast – two three-pound lobsters and a dozen Bluepoint oysters, court records show – but had an atypical reaction, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
The couple began vomiting and had diarrhea hours after the meal. The symptoms subsided in a few days for Maria Martinez, but her husband collapsed three weeks later and was rushed to Pasco Regional Medical Center, court records show.
Angel Martinez then spent a week in intensive care at another hospital, where he was paralyzed from the waist down for several months and needed to learn how to walk again, according to court records, after his illness developed into Gullain-Barré syndrome, a very rare disorder in which the immune system attacks the nerves.
Attorney Brandon Cathey, who represented the couple, said he suspects that oysters led to Martinez’s debilitating illness.
“You take a risk when eating raw oysters,” Cathey said. “It might get you sick, but you don’t expect it to cause lifelong nerve damage.”
Martinez has since recovered, but will have pain, sensory problems and other neurological defects for the rest of his life, his attorney Brent Steinberg said.
The restaurant, meanwhile, has acknowledged serving Martinez and his wife the seafood that got them sick, but denied the meal ultimately led to Martinez suffering from Gullain-Barré syndrome. Reps for the restaurant instead blamed a lamb that Martinez slaughtered and ate days earlier, according to the newspaper.
In 2016, an insurance company for the restaurant offered to settle the case for $20,000, but Martinez’s medical bills had exceeded $325,000 at that point, court records show. The restaurant had a $1 million liability insurance policy, an amount that Martinez and his wife would have accepted as a settlement, Cathey said.
“Now this restaurant may go out of business because of the way his insurance company handled this,” he said.
The Martinezes and the owner of the restaurant, Daniel Hall, declined to comment on the jury’s ruling, the Tampa Bay Times reports.