Jury awards couple $6.7 million after food poisoning from Hillsborough County restaurant

Hillsborough County

Angel and Maria Martinez regularly made the trip from Dade City to Hillsborough County to enjoy Lobster Haven Seafood Market. 

“They had their normal three pound lobsters, a dozen raw oysters, bottle of wine,” said attorney Brandon Cathey of Swope, Rodante P.A.

Little did they know that this meal in December 2013 would be their last at their favorite restaurant.

Both Angel and Maria fell violently ill. Angel’s sickness got a whole lot worse.

“His immune system, in response to this infection he got from the seafood, was eating into his nervous system,” Cathey said.

Days of being sick turned into months.

The culprit: Gullian-Barre Syndrome caused by contaminated raw oysters.

“There just wasn’t any other potential cause of the infection that was as likely as uncooked seafood from the oysters,” the attorney said.

The restaurant’s insurance company wanted to give the couple a mere $20,000 to settle.

But with more than $300,000 in medical bills, they said no way.

Cathey and other attorneys from Swope, Rodante P.A. helped secure the $6.7 million verdict.

“When the jury verdict came back, both of the Martinez’s had tears streaming down their face,” he said.

A person who answered the phone at the restaurant said “it’s still ongoing so we’re not allowed to talk about it,” hinting at an appeal.

Angel still experiences pain and his wife is constantly helping him.

“Mr. Martinez isn’t back to a normal and that means Mrs. Martinez’s life is never going to be back to normal. She’s got to do so many more things than she used to have to do, to sort of compensate for what Mr. Martinez is unable to do anymore,” Cathey said.

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