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March 2001

Rancho Nicasio Owners and County of Marin Served With Class Action Lawsuit


After completing a series of required preliminary legal claims last year, lawyer Steven Schoonover has filed an amended Class Action lawsuit on behalf of eight people taken violently ill at the Rancho Nicasio restaurant. There are potential unnamed plaintiffs who may wish to become part of the lawsuit as the class action progresses.

The plaintiffs were served and drank contaminated well water from the restaurant between January and February 2000. Immediately after the incident was reported, the restaurant was closed and subsequent County Health Services water samples taken were highly contaminated with coliform. Testing also revealed fecal coliform (an indicator used to show potential for more serious pathogens) at three of the five testing locations: the beverage station, food preparation sink, and wooden holding tank.

According to the lawsuit, Rancho Nicasio “enjoyed a reputation in the locale for serving good quality and wholesome food and clean, uncontaminated drinking water.” Plaintiffs allege that the well water supply for the Rancho Nicasio restaurant was constructed and maintained in "such a negligent manner so as to permit surface waters contaminated with harmful bacteria, giardia and viruses” and that the Rancho Nicasio owners and County should have known that the water supplying the premises were poorly constructed, well head seals were compromised allowing contaminants to enter, and that the storage tanks were subject to contamination by rodents and insects.

Much of this is documented in County inspection reports from the immediate months and years prior to the illness outbreak. Plaintiff's attorney Schoonover also alleges “the County failed to abate the problem and thereby protect the public health and safety, as is its duty.”

Of the seven adults and one child that have come forward to join the class action, the lawsuit states that the "Plaintiffs drank the water and consequently became ill, some violently so. Some have yet to recover" nearly one year after the incident.

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