Tony Tagliavia

If the customer is always right, a local restaurant is in some legal trouble.

Dave Durbin, of East Lansing, filed suit Monday against Carrabba’s Italian Grill. He came down with norovirus after eating at the Delta Township restaurant more than two weeks ago.

Durbin says he lost two days’ pay when he became violently ill after eating at the Italian chain. He claims Carrabba’s could have prevented his missed work, lost pay, and the illness itself.

When Durbin ate at the Carrabba’s on West Saginaw on January the 28th — he didn’t eat anything out of the ordinary.

“I had pizza and salad,” he said in an interview Monday.

He says he’d been eating there regularly for four months — but what happened to him two days after his last visit — that wasn’t normal.

“When I woke up I was violently ill. That persisted for a good 18 hours,” Durbin said.

But just when he started to feel a bit better, Durbin headed for the refrigerator — and his leftovers from Carrabba’s.

“I ate the leftovers before I realized I got sick from the Carrabba’s. Later that night my girlfriend looked online and she was like, oh my God, people are getting sick from Carrabba’s — we just ate there,” he said.

After hundreds came down with norovirus, Carrabba’s was cited by the joint Barry-Eaton health department for cleanliness violations and for allowing a sick employee to keep working.

Durbin says he then got in touch with Carrabba’s. He says they offered him some gift certificates for a little more than the value of his meal. Durbin says those won’t help.

“I don’t think I’m going to be eating there again,” he said.

Now Durbin is suing Carrabba’s in Eaton Circuit Court. The suit alleges that the restaurant forced the sick worker to come in. If Carrabba’s hadn’t done that, the suit says, Durbin wouldn’t have been so sick.

“If you’ve ever had food poisoning or the flu, it was way worse than that,” Durbin said.

Sick as he was, the 28-year-old car wash employee says, he couldn’t go to work for two days.

“I’m trying to get compensated for the off time and for the meal. I was severely sick for 36 hours or so,” Durbin said.

We don’t know how much Durbin is suing for — although, since the suit was filed in circuit court, the amount must be over $25,000.

Durbin’s attorney, Greg Liepshutz, says he expects more people to join the suit in a couple of weeks.

A spokesman from Carrabba’s parent company, Outback Steakhouse, Inc., says he hasn’t seen the lawsuit, and cannot comment.