Over the course of the last year, rarely has a month gone by when Chipotle wasn’t in the news with one bad headline or another. Once the undisputed champion of fast-casual Tex-Mex cuisine, the burrito chain’s downward spiral was kick-started after some 500 customers in nine states fell ill, sickened by outbreaks of E. coli, norovirus, and salmonella linked to food at its restaurants. Now, according to a report from Reuters, Chipotle seems to be one step closer to putting an end to its nightmare.
Rather than fight an onslaught of lawsuits in court, the company has instead decided to settled out of court with over 100 customers who fell ill during the crisis, the victims lawyers told Reuters. And while the exact dollar amount of the settlements is confidential, it’s been speculated that the company is quietly paying out “big bucks” in order to avoid lengthy, public trials and even more bad press.
"The way that Chipotle has been handling the legitimate claims has been textbook appropriate," Bill Marler, an attorney who specialized in food-safety cases, told Reuters. The company’s response to the crisis has been compared to a similar saga at Jack in the Box locations in the 1990s. "They've taken responsibility."
"[Chipotle] does right by our customers and simply wanted to make things right for people who were affected by any of those incidents,” he said.
Though over the last six months the company has indeed settled 100 individual claims (the illnesses were verified by medical tests, and, for the most part, never filed in court), Chipotle must still answer to a federal criminal probe, as well as a civil suit claiming it misled investors.