ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — After dozens of people who ate at three Famous Anthony’s locations in Roanoke were diagnosed with hepatitis A in 2021, the restaurant franchise is teaming up with those victims to get them the money they deserve.
The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts reported on Sept. 24, 2021 that a worker at three Famous Anthony’s locations had been diagnosed with the virus.
As a result, health officials warned anyone who visited the restaurants on Grandin Road, Williamson Road, or Crystal Spring Avenue from Aug. 10-26, 2021 that they could have been exposed.
According to court documents, the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts identified a total of 52 primary cases of hepatitis A associated with the Famous Anthony’s outbreak, resulting in at least 36 hospitalizations and four deaths.
In addition, on Jan. 10, Famous Anthony’s filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy at two of the locations where the outbreak took place — the one on Grandin Road and the one on Williamson Road.
Months after the outbreak spread around the Roanoke Valley, Bill Marler — who represents 43 of the 52 people infected with hepatitis A — is joining forces with Famous Anthony’s attorney.
“The goal is to get as much coverage, and therefore as much money, to the people that are the claimants in the bankruptcy case,” said Goldstein.
On May 5, the plaintiffs and the franchise filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against Famous Anthony’s insurer, Cincinnati Insurance Companies.
Both lawyers say the insurance company is only offering $7 million to cover payouts for the two restaurants that filed for bankruptcy, but they feel that amount is owed to each location.
WFXR reached out to the insurance company and received the following statement: “We don’t publicly discuss specific claims, respecting the privacy of those involved.”
Now, Marler and Goldstein say they’re taking this matter to court.
“The parties will basically ask the court to determine how much insurance coverage is available,” said Goldstein.
“And once that’s determined, the bankruptcy court will come up with an equitable way of dividing that money up amongst the people, primarily based on severity of illness,” Marler explained.
One person waiting for that decision is Dana Heston. Her father was the first of four people to die because of the outbreak. Meanwhile, her mother was also infected, but fully recovered.
“It impacted each family differently,” said Heston. “I lost my father, one family lost both parents.”
She says her father was a Green Beret in the U.S. Army who liked to stay active. He also helped Heston look after her children. By the end of his time in the hospital, though, Heston’s father couldn’t even communicate.
“There’s no doubt in my mind this person didn’t know they had it, and they didn’t do it on purpose, but the end result changed a lot of lives,” said Heston.
She adds that the outbreak highlights the importance of hepatitis vaccines, so she encourages anyone over the age of 30 to contact their doctor and find out if they should get vaccinated.