There has been lots of attention regarding Guardian Law Group’s recently filed class action lawsuit against Joey Tomato’s Eau Claire restaurant, both in the news and on social media.
Like any class action that we take on, we got involved in this action because we believe that it is the right thing to do. Class action litigation is at its core public interest litigation, and it is about holding people to account when they do something wrong. We believe that Joey, in this case, did something wrong, not just that something bad happened at their restaurant. People have gotten sick at restaurants, grocery stores, workplaces, and elsewhere throughout this pandemic, and no one is proposing a class action simply on the basis that someone caught the virus there as opposed to somewhere else.
The reason that this class action is being pursued is because Joey is alleged to have known that there was an outbreak at their restaurant for 6 days, and stayed open. Further, it is alleged that there was transmission at a staff party, following which isolation protocols were not followed. It is also alleged that Joey was not collecting appropriate contact information from enough of their patrons, (in case there was an outbreak), and did not follow up and contact those patrons for whom they did have contact information, when they knew that an outbreak had occurred. There is more, but these are the kinds of things that make the restaurant at least partly responsible for the harm people suffered.
Notably, it may be a defense for Joey Eau Claire to suggest that the people who ate at their restaurant were also being careless, and that some of this is their own fault. That can reduce the amount that patrons are entitled to, but it doesn’t mean that Joey is off the hook for their part in it.
By going to a restaurant at all, people were taking a risk, but they did not know that Joey was failing to do some, if not all of these things, and so they did not know that the risk of going to that restaurant was going to be so high. Because of the way that Joey Eau Claire was being run, the allegation is that it was far riskier to dine there than somewhere else, and far riskier than people expected.
We would further like to clarify that we are not suggesting that every infection that can be traced back to the Joey Eau Claire restaurant is the defendant’s responsibility. Even when someone makes a mistake, there is a limit to how remote the consequences can be before it would be unfair to hold that person responsible. The concept holds true here. The proposed class in this claim is limited to those who attended Joey’s Eau Claire within 2 weeks of the outbreak period, and those who live in their immediate households. Although we do not think it is fair to hold Joey Eau Claire responsible for every infection down the chain in perpetuity, we believe that it is reasonable to assume that many of the patrons are going to go home to their families, from whom they cannot isolate, and that the entire household is put at risk when one member is negligently exposed to the virus.
We understand that this lawsuit has been something of a controversial issue on social media, but we have no intention of taking unreasonable or radical positions. We are not going after the restaurant industry as a whole. There are good restaurants out there, that were doing their best to keep people safe, and in some cases people got sick anyways. There are no lawsuits contemplated against restaurants like that. This is about a restaurant that is alleged to have been cavalier about people’s health, and to have needlessly put people at risk. When someone is irresponsible at someone else’s expense, the law is supposed to step in to restore the balance. The goal here is to get some compensation for people who were harmed as a result of the alleged negligence, and to send a message to others so that people are more likely to do the right thing.
If you or a loved one dined at Joey Eau Claire during the period in question and were infected with COVID-19, we would love to hear from you. Your voice deserves to be heard. Please contact Mathew Farrell by phone at (403) 800-7768.