JoCo couple file 4th suit against Hereford House after worker allegedly contaminated food

A Johnson County couple who fell ill after eating at the Hereford House in Leawood have sued the restaurant after a worker allegedly contaminated food that was later served to customers.

Michael and Diane Fogarty filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Johnson County District Court against the Hereford House Restaurant Co.mpany of Kansas Inc., claiming they fell ill within hours after eating at the restaurant in April.

The lawsuit is the fourth to be filed against the Hereford House after Johnson County prosecutors charged 21-year-old Jace Christian Hanson of Kansas City with one felony count of unlawfully adulterating or contaminating food while working at the restaurant at 5001 Town Center Driver in Leawood’s Town Center Plaza.

The lawsuit is similar to those filed by Chad Christopher of Clay County, McHarlan and Barbara Bishop of Jackson County, and Blair and Dawn Hawkins of Rogers, Arkansas, who contend they also fell ill after eating at the restaurant.

All the lawsuits contend that the restaurant was negligent and breached an implied warranty that its food would be safe. The lawsuits also contain a strict liability claim alleging that the contaminated food is a defective product and the restaurant should be held liable for serving it to customers.

Ill within hours of eating

In their lawsuit, the Fogartys contend that they ate dinner at the Hereford House in Leawood on April 29.

Within two hours of leaving the restaurant, the couple contend they became ill.

Michael Fogarty experienced extreme nausea and diarrhea for several hours and continues to experience gastrointestinal issues, according to the lawsuit. Diane Fogarty experienced extreme nausea and diarrhea for a day or two.

The symptoms, the lawsuit contends, were consistent with food poisoning.

Since becoming aware of the alleged contamination of food at the restaurant, the Fogartys contend they suffered additional emotional and psychological distress. They also continue to experience anxiety and distress, including the fear of future illnesses or medical harm.

They are seeking an unspecified amount in damages and have asked for a jury trial.

Diners continue to contact police

When charges were filed against Hanson in late April, the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office and Leawood police asked customers who fell ill after eating at the restaurant between March 26 and April 25, which is when the crime is alleged to have happened, to contact them.

Leawood Police Chief Brad Robbins said that as of Wednesday morning, 382 people who ate at the Hereford House during that period had contacted police.

“The influx of people contacting us has dropped considerably from last week, but we continue to receive a few each day and our investigation is continuing,” Robbins said.

Those who ate at Hereford House during that time can continue to contact Leawood police via an online form.

Hereford House later narrowed the timeline for the alleged tampering to 12 days, roughly April 6 and 23, based on Hanson’s statements to police.

According to court documents, Hanson allegedly posted videos on a website under the name “Vandalizer” that showed a man urinating in restaurant-style food bins and rubbing food on his genitals and buttocks.

A tip to the Federal Bureau of Investigation led to the discovery of the alleged crime, and the agency allegedly tied the videos posted online to Hanson’s cellphone.

When confronted, Hanson allegedly told detectives that he contaminated food in more than 20 incidents. He reportedly said he started contaminating the food because he didn’t enjoy the job.

Hanson was arrested on April 25 and booked into Johnson County jail, where he is currently held on a $100,000 bond.

A motion has been filed asking that Hanson’s bond be modified so that he could be released without bail or have his bond reduced. If released, he plans to live with his mother near Casper, Wyoming.

Hanson is scheduled to appear in court next week.