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70 Cendant Employees Treated for Food Poisoning

Incident is second of its kind in 2 years for company

February 17, 2004


For the second time in two years employees at a Cendant Mortgage gathering were stricken by illness.

The latest episode happened Feb. 7 during a Cendant Mortgage conference at the Lowes Hotel in downtown Philadelphia, company spokeswoman Jeannine M. Dooley confirmed in an E-mail to MortgageDaily.com.

As many as 70 employees at the Mount Laurel, N.J.-based company were treated at area emergency rooms for apparent food poisoning. But none on of the cases were as severe as two years ago when a Cendant employee became sick and died during the company's national sales meeting in New Jersey.

"I don't know what to say," Paris Couturiaux, Cendant vice president of human relations, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "The chances that something like this would happen twice ... is pretty slim."

Dooley said Cendant is not commenting further. She did confirm that Philadelphia public health inspectors are investigating and that all of the employees who were stricken are better now and did not require lengthy hospital stays.

Health inspectors did not return phone calls to comment.

The Cendant employees were taken to emergency rooms in several Philadelphia area hospitals. But hospital spokespersons, citing new federal confidentiality laws, would not comment on conditions of the patients treated, nor would they release names or other details.

Calls to the Lowes Hotel where the conference was held were not returned.

Dooley did confirm that Cendant employees was holding a business conference at the hotel. Some of the workers became ill after eating dinner Saturday night. Others came down sick Sunday morning, she confirmed.

Couturiaux was quoted saying "the doctors are telling us that it's food poisoning."

Symptoms included nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Cendant dealt with a similar though more grave situation two years ago during a national sales meeting in Cherry Hill, N.J., which is a Philadelphia suburb.

Joanne Hemstrett, 45, had complained of flu-like symptoms while at the meeting held in February of 2002. She was eventually transported to an area hospital where she died as a result of Fulminent Bacterial Pneumonia, an aggressive bacterial infection.

Seven other people were also admitted to the hospital and 77 were taken to emergency rooms two years ago, MortgageDaily.com reported at the time.

Cendant Mortgage is part of Cendant's real estate services segment, which includes Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Coldwell Banker Commercial and ERA real estate brokerage.

Patrick Crowley is a political reporter and columnist and former business writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer. Email Patrick at: [email protected]

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