Kent Co. inmates’ food poisoning suit now federal

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A lawsuit by 16 people who say they contracted food poisoning while they were inmates at the Kent County Correctional Facility as a result of shoddy service by contractor Aramark is now a federal case.

Rodell Beasely Jr., Brandon Davis, Dwayne Johnson, Rodney Lyons, Alvin Bright, Kevin Applewhite, Darnell Hearring, Sesario Ochoa, Dennis Swanson, Dakota Straton, Amelia Pittner, Jeremy Doty, Daniel Engelking, Joseph Whitemyer, Darell Craft and Travis Sparks are suing Aramark Services, Inc., Kent County Sheriff Lawrence Stelma and Kent County, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

The 16 plaintiffs claim that while they were inmates at the Kent County jail in April 2012, they were served either spoiled or contaminated food that gave them food poisoning. According to court documents, the plaintiffs say workers for Aramark, the contractor that provides kitchen services for the jail, didn’t handle the food safely and didn’t have the correct equipment to prevent it from spoiling and that Aramark didn’t hire enough well-trained workers to prevent spoilage.

The suit also claims Stelma, as sheriff, “acted with deliberate indifference to the substantial risk of serious harm” by hiring Aramark “despite knowledge of those companies’ history of mass food poisonings.”

That was a violation of their Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendment constitutional right to due process and protection against cruel and unusual punishment, the federal suit claims.

The plaintiffs are claiming damages in excess of $75,000.

The lawsuit was previously filed in Kent County Circuit Court in February. That suit was withdrawn when the federal suit was filed.

Aramark, which also provides food services to Michigan prisons, was fined by state last year for preparing the incorrect number of meals, substitutions that broke the company’s contract with the state, and cases of over-familiarity with inmates including inappropriate touching and kissing. There have been multiple complaints of Aramark food having maggots in it that also resulted in a fine, and a complaint of food having or having been in contact with rodents.

In more isolated incidents, Aramark workers have also been accused of smuggling drugs to inmates and seeking a hit on an inmate.

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