Tainted Sushi Damages Upheld in California Court

A California appeals court on Monday upheld a $3.2 million award to a woman who claims to have suffered nerve damage after eating tainted raw tuna at a sushi restaurant.

Alexis Sarti, 25, of Costa Mesa, Calif., won the money from a jury more than two years ago but a judge overturned the decision, which was reversed in a 30-page document released by the 4th District Court of Appeals.

"I never actually thought the day would ever come," Sarti told the Orange County Register. "I am still in shock. The money wasn't an issue for me. I had my day in court and I was happy with it. The money doesn't make me a better person."

Sarti says she fell ill in April 2005 after eating raw ahi, or yellowfin tuna, at the Salt Creek Grille in Dana Point, Calif. Her lawsuit contended the tuna was contaminated by bacteria from raw poultry.

Sarti, a cross-country runner in high school, said she was temporarily paralyzed, spent 49 days in the hospital and lost much of her endurance. She used a walker for eight months, often had to use a wheelchair and had to drop out of college for 18 months to undergo treatment and therapy. She said she continues to have muscle spasms and cramps almost daily, and that she will be disabled for the rest of her life.

The restaurant's attorney, Roy G. Weatherup, said he presented evidence that it was "physically impossible" for Sarti to have contracted the bacteria at the restaurant because she fell ill only a day later.

"I'm very disappointed. I think it makes a major and unwarranted change in the law relating to proof in food poisoning cases," he said.


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