Student plans to sue Jimmy John’s

An MSU student is planning to sue Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, the popular sandwich chain, after she contracted a case of E. coli after eating a sandwich with allegedly infected raw clover sprouts at an East Lansing location.

Human biology junior Alexsandra Shalayko is planning to file a lawsuit in Ingham Country Circuit Court for damages related to an E. coli infection that hospitalized her.

Shalayko was hospitalized for three days after eating a Turkey Tom sandwich with sprouts at the Jimmy John’s location at 4790 S. Hagadorn Road. She tested positive for the same strain of E. coli that has caused nine confirmed cases across Michigan.

Although they haven’t assessed the numbers, her attorney Drew Falkenstein said he wouldn’t be surprised if the medical bills alone racked up between $10,000 and $20,000.

Shalayko said it’s not about the money, but rather about making sure food wildly popular among her college peers is safe.

“It’s frustrating to see a company that we love isn’t really giving the love back,” Shalayko said. “It was a pretty harrowing experience for me, I can only imagine how it would be for somebody less fortunate (without health insurance).”

Both the Jimmy John’s location and corporate officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, although all three East Lansing locations said they currently are not serving sprouts.

The lawsuit will allege sprouts on the sandwich Shalayko ate Feb. 4 gave her the bacterial infection, part of an outbreak that infected 25 people in eight states.

She was hospitalized for three days, experiencing what she described as severe abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea.

“We’re dealing with a product that’s got a bad track record in terms of safety,” Falkenstein said.

Shalayko hired Seattle-based law firm Marler Clark, which specializes in food poisoning cases, to defend her. The firm has confronted Jimmy John’s, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Walmart in court in the past. Falkenstein said he plans on officially filing the lawsuit by the end of the week.

Still, Shalayko said she’s disappointed she’ll never again eat sprouts on a Jimmy John’s sandwich.

“It kills me,” she said. “To me, that’s the best part.”

Shalayko said her case was one of the nine confirmed by the Michigan Department of Community Health, although a spokeswoman from the department could not confirm her case with The State News because of medical confidentiality.

Sprouts are a perfect breeding ground for many kinds of bacteria to grow, especially E. coli and salmonella, as they are grown in moist conditions with temperatures close to that of the human body, said food science and human nutrition professor Elliot Ryser.

No-preference freshman Emily Clemons, who said she has eaten a vegetarian sandwich with sprouts about once a week, said she understands why sprouts are no longer an option.

“I wouldn’t be comfortable eating them after (the outbreak)” she said. “Jimmy John’s is a big enough place where that stuff shouldn’t be happening.”

But Clemons said she does like the new little green replacement sprouts named “snow pea shoes.”

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