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Boston College student sues Chipotle over sickness

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The Cleveland Circle Chipotle location was temporarily closed after customers contracted norovirus at the restaurant in early December.AP/Associated Press

A Boston College student this week sued the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Cleveland Circle, seeking compensation for the bout of nausea and vomiting he suffered after eating a burrito bowl there Dec. 5.

The student, 20-year-old Kyle J. Waters, was apparently among the 136 people, mostly Boston College students, who contracted norovirus at the restaurant in early December.

Waters's suit, filed Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court, follows a similar legal complaint in December by the mother of Alexander Keough, a Brookline teen who got sick after eating at the restaurant.

Waters received treatment at Boston College health services and Keough went to Boston Children's Hospital for rehydration.

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Bill Marler, the Seattle food-safety lawyer representing both plaintiffs, said he has 13 clients who are Boston College students affected by the outbreak.

Marler told the Globe in an e-mail that he is working with Chipotle to settle all the cases out of court. And Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold wrote that the company aims "to take care of customers who have been impacted by incidents like this."

The city ordered the restaurant closed Dec. 7 after finding three serious food-safety violations, including the reports of multiple illnesses. The Boston Public Health Commission reported that 136 people fell ill with norovirus after eating there; Boston College health services said 141 had reported illnesses. The restaurant reopened Dec. 26.

Norovirus causes a brief but intense illness — a day or two of vomiting and diarrhea — but rarely has lasting effects, especially in healthy young people.

The damages paid will vary, depending on the extent of the illness, said Andrea C. Dow, Keough's mother and the local counsel in both suits. The few who were hospitalized can expect bigger payouts, she said, but "nobody's going to get rich on this."

Rather, she said, she sued to hold Chipotle accountable, saying the Denver-based restaurant chain should have been on high alert after more than 200 people contracted norovirus last summer at one of its California restaurants.

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"This isn't about the money," Dow said. "It's really about seeing some positive change with the restaurant. . . . Sometimes, this is the best way to get a company's attention."

Dow said she hopes Chipotle stays in business, because she believes its food is healthier than what other fast-food restaurants offer, and her sons love it. As for the son who got sick, she said, he still hasn't worked up the courage to go back to Chipotle, but she believes he will eventually. "He doesn't hold a grudge," Dow said.


Felice J. Freyer can be reached at felice.freyer@globe.com. Follow her
on Twitter @felicejfreyer.