Woman sues food service company


A 56-year-old teacher has filed a $2 million negligence suit against the food-service contractor at St. Joseph Medical Center, alleging that she suffered food poisoning that hospitalized her for a week after she ate at St. Joseph's cafeteria.

Patricia R. Bockmiller of Baton Rouge, La., was visiting her father, who was a hospital patient, May 13, 1999, when she suffered salmonella poisoning from food she ate in the cafeteria, according to the suit.

She was admitted to the hospital May 17 and, during a seven-day stay, suffered "diarrhea, painful abdominal cramping, nausea, dizziness, colitis and other painful symptoms," according to the suit. Bockmiller was not charged for her treatment.

The suit, filed last week in Baltimore County Circuit Court, names Sodexho Marriott Services Inc. of Gaithersburg, St. Joseph's food-service contractor, as the defendant. The medical center is not being sued.

Jeff Messing, Bockmiller's lawyer, said that she was one of 24 people who suffered salmonella poisoning from food served at the hospital in May last year, but was the only one who was hospitalized. Messing said that his client became ill apparently from eatingmelon in the cafeteria.

A report Oct. 28, 1999, by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene concluded that the infection probably originated with food prepared in the hospital kitchen. The report said that the exact cause of the problem "could not be determined."

In a written statement, Sodexho Marriott Services said it was "deeply concerned" about the people who became ill, and had worked with health officials to investigate the outbreak. The company declined further comment.

Messing said that Bockmiller, a slender woman, lost 18 pounds because of the illness and continues to need medical care for digestive problems. She lost two summer teaching positions because of her illness, he said.

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