Chipotle Quietly Settles Over 100 Food Poisoning Claims

Following a string of foodborne illnesses connected to the restaurant chain last year, Chipotle Mexican Grill has been quietly settling over 100 lawsuits out of court in recent months.

More than 500 cases of E. coli, norovirus, and salmonella were linked back to Chipotle last year, which significantly hampered the burrito chain’s food safety reputation. Every year, approximately 48 million Americans, or one in six people, contracts a foodborne illness; around 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die. Chipotle temporarily shut down several locations after two different outbreaks of E. coli spread across more than a dozen states.

Each case brought against Chipotle had a medically-confirmed diagnosis of food poisoning, said attorney Bill Marler, who has represented more than 100 people so far. All but one of his clients have so far settled out of court, he added.

“The way that Chipotle has been handling the legitimate claims has been textbook appropriate,” Marler told Reuters last week. “They’ve taken responsibility.”

Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said in a statement: “We are a company that does the right things for our customers and we simply believed settling these claims was the right thing to do.”

The company is still struggling to recover from the outbreaks, both in terms of their stock trading prices and their reputation in the public eye. The quiet handling of these cases over the past six months indicates their continued attempts to put the embarrassing gaffe behind them.

“The last thing that they want is a battle in the courtroom over paying these people money because that keeps it in the news,” said Howard Penney, managing director for Hedgeye Risk Management, a research firm that follows Chipotle.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ended its investigations into the restaurant, Chipotle still faces federal questioning over whether management misled investors about food safety protocol practices.

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