A Cheyenne restaurant must pay a Nebraska couple nearly $11.4 million after the husband contracted salmonella poisoning while eating at the restaurant in 2010, a federal judge in Wyoming has ruled. 

The money will help pay for past and future medical expenses for Christopher Gage, who became sick after eating at Old Country Buffet, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming. He and wife, Heather, both from Bridgeport, Nebraska, sued the restaurant and its operator, Ovation Brands, last year.

According to the findings of U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl filed Oct. 22, the restaurant and Ovation Brands did not appear at an August hearing on the case. Thus, the case was defaulted in favor of the Gages and a hearing was set to determine the damages to be awarded to the couple.

Within two days of eating at the restaurant on Oct. 1, 2010, Gage went into renal failure and septic shock and was admitted to the intensive care unit at a hospital in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, according to a complaint filed Sept. 30, 2014, by the couple’s attorneys.

Gage underwent multiple surgeries and remained hospitalized for more than two weeks. To this day, Gage is in constant pain, according to the judge’s findings. Gage attends physical and occupational therapy and must walk with a cane, walker or wheelchair. He suffers from mood swings and has anxiety and depression.

Gage suffered a brain injury as a result of the salmonella poisoning, the judge’s findings state. A neurologist who testified before Skavdahl said a portion of Gage’s brain was injured, and as a result, Gage has suffered from persistent nausea, vomiting, balance and coordination issues, cognitive defects, emotional control issues, and speech and language problems. He broke both of his feet in falls last year, the findings state.

In total, Gage is incapable of independently caring for himself and relies on his wife for care.

The lawsuit states the health department had issued Old Country Buffet 18 health code violations the day before Gage and wife dined at the restaurant. The suit claims the restaurant should have known its food was potentially dangerous.

Follow crime and courts reporter Lillian Schrock on Twitter @lillieschrock.

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