Rat-bite fever, an infectious and sometimes fatal bacterial disease spread from rats via bites, scratches, or their contaminated food or water, has been a much larger problem for San Diego–based Petco Animal Supplies than attorneys for the chain have disclosed, reads a March 3 ruling from San Diego County Superior Court judge Eddie Sturgeon.
The ruling comes as both sides prepare for the March 27 civil trial to begin.
In 2014, members of the Pankey family sued Petco after their ten-year-old son, Aidan, contracted the disease and died less than two weeks after his grandmother purchased the rat from a store in San Diego. In their complaint, the family accused Petco of failing to test the rat for the disease and for neglecting to notify the boy's grandmother of the dangers of rat-bite fever upon purchasing the pet.
In the two-plus years of litigation, however, attorneys for the boy's family say the pet-store chain has been less than forthcoming as to the number of incidents involving infected rats.
On March 3, a state-court judge agreed, finding numerous instances wherein the company had failed to disclose incidents of customers and workers becoming infected with rat-bite fever, including one instance where a young girl was paralyzed due as a result of contracting the disease.
"[The Pankeys] have discovered incidents of persons harmed by rat bite fever that were not disclosed by Petco, and previously ordered Petco to produce all records, correspondence, court records and settlement agreements.... Since that order, plaintiffs have learned of other incidents involving Irene Defillipis, a Petco employee, Stephanie House, a young girl paralyzed, and Sasha Doval, and Bailey Hogan."
Judge Sturgeon ordered Petco to produce all related documents and will not decide whether to impose sanctions against the corporation until after the trial commences.