Food Poisoning lawsuit, Foodborne Illness – Salmonella, E. coli etc.
If you have been sickened by food poisoning, either from products that you bought at a store or a restaurant, the seller can be held liable. Food is just like any product, where the seller could face a product liability lawsuit if it is defective. They assume the legal obligation to sell you food that does not sicken you. In fact, food poisoning lawsuits have led to large judgements and settlement for injured consumers. The most common types of food poisoning include: Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria. There have been a number of large nationwide outbreaks of food poisoning that have sickened people. It seems as if there are monthly news reports of tainted food, either at restaurants or grocery stores. Some of these incidents have even killed people who simply trusted the seller when they bought the food. You can hold the merchant or manufacturer legally responsible.
Food poisoning is both angering and debilitating at once. When you purchase food or eat at a restaurant, the last thing that you expect is that the food will make you ill. Some foodborne illness is serious enough to cause lasting damage, and even death in some cases. Below is some information on common or severe types of foodborne illness. If you have contracted a foodborne illness and have suffered harm, it is vital that you contact a food poisoning lawsuit lawyer. The manufacturer or the purveyor of the food that sickened you may be legally responsible for your illness.
Update- 5-12-21- “WATERFORD TOWNSHIP, NJ — A school district in Camden County has moved to remote learning after a foodborne illness impacted nearly 60 percent of the staff, the district announced this week. A report said as many as 100 teachers and staff got sick. The Waterford Township Public School District has shut down until May 24 after staff from the district became sick following a luncheon on May 6, Waterford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brenda Harring announced.” Patch New Jersey
4-23-2021- “Jule’s Foods is voluntarily recalling all of its products because they could be contaminated with salmonella and linked to a multistate outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said Friday they are investigating “Salmonella Duisburg infections linked to the consumption of Jule’s Cashew Brie, a vegan, or plant-based cheese alternative.” According to the CDC’s food safety alert, there have been five people infected with the outbreak strain reported from three states. California and Tennessee have had two cases, and Florida has had one. Two people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.” USA today
11-27-2020- “Vegpro International says that Fresh Attitude Baby Spinach is being recalled in Canada for possible Salmonella contamination. The spinach was distributed in Ontario and Quebec at the consumer level. No illnesses have been reported to the company to date in connection with this problem. The recalled products are Fresh Attitude Baby Spinach sold in 312 gram packages. The UPC number on the label is 8 88048 00028 8, and the code is Best Before 2020 DE 04. Also recalled is fresh Attitude Baby Spinach, sold in 142 gram packages. The UPC number printed on the label is 8 88048 00004 2, and the codes on the product are Best Before 2020 DE 04 and Best Before 2020 DE 05.”
11/16/2020- “In Mediterranean Grill, a federal judge in Texas granted an insurer’s motion seeking to treat 124 separate cases of food poisoning as a single “occurrence” under a commercial general liability policy because all cases arose from the restaurant’s allegedly contaminated food. Over a one-month period in 2018, nearly 200 cases of food poisoning from salmonella were reported after customers ate at Pasha’s Mediterranean restaurant in San Antonio, Texas. The illnesses led to seven separate lawsuits alleging that the restaurant was negligent in manufacturing and preparing its food, which led to food poisoning. The restaurant sought coverage from its insurer, Travelers, under a policy with a $1 million “per occurrence” coverage limit and a $2 million “aggregate” limit.” National Law Review
11/16/2020- “Fresh Express is voluntarily recalling a limited number of cases of expired 10.5 oz. Fresh Express Kit Caesar Supreme with the Use-By Date of November 8, 2020 and Product Code S296 because it may be contaminated with Escherichia coli STEC 026 bacteria. The recall is being executed out of an abundance of caution in the unlikely event the product, which is now 8 days past the Use-By Date, is still in stores or consumers’ homes. The recalled product was distributed primarily in Western and Southwestern U.S. states.” Food Poisoning Journal
10/31/2020- “The CDC has reported two separate E. Coli outbreaks with no known sources, having caused a total of 44 infections and one death. Though the two outbreaks are caused by different strains, they have both been connected to E. coli O157:H7. Investigators are currently deducing the cause of this outbreak, having no advice as of date for foods the public should avoid. The first outbreak has caused 21 infections in 8 states: California (7), Florida (1), Illinois (1), Michigan (2), New Jersey (1), Ohio (7), Utah (1), and Wisconsin (1). Of the reported cases, 8 required hospitalizations and there was one death. The second outbreak has caused 23 infections in 12 states: California (2), Illinois (1), Kansas (4), Michigan (2), Missouri (2), North Dakota (4), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (2), Tennessee (1), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (2). Of those reported cases, 10 required hospitalizations. The CDC is currently investigating the outbreak, having found no restaurants, grocery stores, or food items to avoid.” Food poisoning News
Some Different Types of Food-Borne Illnesses
First, it is important to know about the types of food-borne diseases that you could get from tainted food. All of these are serious illnesses that can cause significant injury and even death.
- Salmonella – This is bacteria which lives in the intestinal tracts of animals. When you eat food contaminated with salmonella, you are literally eating animal feces. This infection causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. In most cases, salmonella contaminates food or products from animals, but even fruit and vegetables can become tainted.
- E. coli – This is another bacteria that is found in the animal’s gut. It can contaminate meat, but it can also taint food that comes into contact with it. Milk and meat are usually impacted, but fruits and vegetables can become contaminated when they are handled by a sick person or touch E.coli contamination.
- Listeria – This bacteria is found in dairy and cheese products and some vegetables. Listeria is actually the most deadly of foodborne bacteria, and it is especially dangerous for pregnant women. Listeria can cause a long illness and will lead to hospitalization.
- Botulism – Food that is improperly preserved or canned can become tainted with botulism. While this is relatively rare, the resulting illness requires hospitalization. Botulism is always considered a medical emergency.
- Hepatitis A – Raw foods carry the risk of hepatitis, especially undercooked shellfish. This is a highly contagious disease, and many cases happen when an infected food handler touches the food with their bare hands.
The Chipotle Outbreaks Brought Attention to Food Poisoning
Ask people about tainted restaurant food, and the first thing that many will tell you about is Chipotle. The major nationwide chain had several outbreaks of food-borne diseases that sickened over 1,100 people. In all, there were five outbreaks of disease that included cases of:
- E. coli
In one restaurant in Ohio, 650 people became ill with C.perfringens, which is a bacteria that grows when food is not properly stored. Chipotle ended up paying a $25 million fine to the Department of Justice in a criminal matter.
Recent Examples of Tainted Food
In addition, there have been other large or well-known recent outbreaks of foodborne illness in the following products:
- Romaine lettuce – 165 people were sickened and 85 of them hospitalized when they either ate romaine lettuce tainted with E.coli or food that touched this lettuce. This was just one in a series of outbreaks tied to romaine lettuce.
- Fresh Express bagged salad – 701 people were sickened and 38 hospitalized when this produce was tainted with cyclospora. Predictably, this bag included lettuce, a food which is very easily contaminated.
- Shell Eggs – In 2018, 45 people became ill when they ate shell eggs from Rose Hill Farm that were tainted with salmonella. The contamination happened due to poor food safety practices at the farm.
- Flour – In 2017, 63 people were sickened and 17 hospitalized when they ate food containing General Mills flour that was contaminated with E.Coli. Some of the sickened people handled raw dough at a restaurant, a practice that the FDA has questioned.
In general, food safety is improving throughout the U.S, but there are still instances of large outbreaks. However, there have been fewer major outbreaks in recent years. This does not lessen the liability if you have been sickened.
Damages in a Food Poisoning Lawsuit
Customers who become ill from food poisoning are entitled to the same type of damages that they would in any personal injury cases. This includes:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses to treat their condition and any future medical expenses
- Compensation for missed time from work due to their illness
- Wrongful death damages if someone died
- Emotional distress
- Possible punitive damages if the defendant was extremely negligent or even acted intentionally
There have been numerous high-profile lawsuits in the wake of large-scale food poisonings. As a plaintiff, you would have a challenge in showing that your illness resulted from specific food poisoning. You would need detailed medical records from a doctor that conclusively determined what made you sick. If you have food poisoning, it is vital that you see a doctor immediately and obtain a thoroughly documented medical file. This would satisfy the causation element of the negligence test. If you were sickened as part of a large national outbreak, you would have a better chance of receiving compensation than if you became ill as part of an isolated case.
How Your Can Sue for Food Poisoning
If you are suing a restaurant or a food manufacturer for a case of food poisoning, here are the legal theories under which you can sue:
- Strict Liability – You can win your case if you show that the food was contaminated, and you were sickened by the food.
- Breach of Warranty – When the merchant sells you the food, they make an implied warranty that it is safe and fit for the purpose for which they sell it to you. Food poisoning would obviously be a breach of this warranty.
- Negligence – This is the fallback option when a strict liability claim is not available. You would need to show that the seller did not use reasonable care in making or selling the food.
Food Poisoning Verdicts and Settlements
You can file a lawsuit against a restaurant or a food manufacturer. Whoever was responsible for your illness can be made to pay. Here are some examples of lawsuits against food manufacturers and restaurants for cases of food poisoning:
- In 2018, a Florida couple was awarded $6.7 million in a verdict against a restaurant. The man was sickened after he ate tainted seafood. He developed a severe autoimmune disease that left him with permanent nerve damage after he got flu-like symptoms from contaminated seafood.
- In 2019, an Alabama jury awarded a couple $300,000. The man was sickened by food right around the same time as the restaurant received a seriously deficient examination from the county Department of Health, which found unsafe temperatures and cross-contamination between cheese and meat. The man got salmonella poisoning and was hospitalized for nearly three weeks.
- In 2018, an Arizona plaintiff was awarded $6.5 million in federal court when he developed salmonella from eating chicken from Foster Poultry Farms. He required brain surgery and suffered permanent damage. This was part of an outbreak where 634 people were sickened. While nobody died, some people did suffer serious injuries.
- In 2016, a New Hampshire jury awarded a plaintiff $750,000 after he got salmonella poisoning from eating a hamburger at an Applebee’s. This plaintiff was not even seriously sickened like the other plaintiffs mentioned above. Applebee’s tried to blame his salmonella poisoning on the fact that he kept lizards at home.
- In 2015, a Wyoming plaintiff was awarded over $11 million when he sued the Old Country Buffet. He suffered permanent brain damage and kidney failure after he got salmonella from contaminated food. The man was no longer able to care for himself after his severe illness. The plaintiff needed over $5 million in life care damages.
As you can see, the damages in food poisoning cases can vary. Some cases will settle for amounts in the tens of thousands of dollars, which severe cases can merit multi million dollar verdicts. In some cases, a jury may punish a restaurant or food manufacturer with a high verdict because their carelessness is downright appalling.
Food poisoning lawsuit
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 250 foodborne illnesses. These are infections that result from bacteria and other viruses. These can also result from toxins and chemicals. According to the CDC, there are five top foodborne illnesses. In addition, there are several other common illnesses beyond the top five.
Norovirus is a severe stomach bug that results in nearly 800 deaths each year. It is highly contagious and easily spread. People can contract norovirus in a variety of different ways, including contact with someone who has the virus. It can be transmitted through food. If someone infected with norovirus comes into contact with food, then the food can carry the virus. Norovirus can also spread through water and surfaces. The illness can last from one to three days, but more severe cases can require hospitalization.
According to the CDC, there are over one million cases of salmonella in the United States each year. The illness kills approximately 450 people each year. The illness generally last from four to seven days, but in many cases, it does not require further treatment. However, if the diarrhea is severe enough, hospitalization is required. Salmonella is often spread through contaminated meat. For example, there was a recent outbreak of salmonella that has been connected to Butterball turkey products. There is also another active outbreak of salmonella that has come from tainted ground beef.
While not as well known as the other types of foodborne illness, C. perfringens is every bit as common. While the name is not well-known, this is more familiar to people as food poisoning. Over one million Americans are sickened by this on an annual basis. This can come from eating rotten food or food that was not stored at the right temperature. Due to the nature of this illness, it will most likely not come as part of an outbreak because it comes from individual food not being served and stored in a correct manner.
This mostly results from eating poultry that has been undercooked. Outbreaks of this illness are rare. According to the CDC, there have been an average of 35 outbreaks of this illness each year recently. Although this foodborne illness is not as severe as the others, it is very easy for someone to become sickened with it. All it takes is one drop of juice from contaminated poultry and one can contract this illness. This illness sickens over one million Americans each year, although many cases go unreported.
This is a common cause of fatalities among foodborne illnesses. Listeria is very rare, but is very deadly. Of the approximately 1,600 people that contract listeria every year, roughly one in every six die. Pregnant women are especially susceptible to this illness. Nearly all of the cases of listeria will require the patient to be hospitalized. Recently, there was on outbreak of listeria from pork products that sickened four people, although there were no fatalities.
This is one of the more well-known foodborne illnesses. According to the CDC, there are approximately 75,000 people who are sickened with this illness every year and roughly 2,000 will require hospitalization. Between 50 and 100 people die from this disease annually. Recently, one of the more publicized out breaks of this illness was the E. Coli that was connected with consumption of romaine lettuce that caused one fatality.
There are numerous other foodborne illnesses. including botulism and Vibrio. Botulism is a serious illness because its toxins attack the body’s nervous system. While botulism is rare, up to one in ten cases can be fatal.
Food Poisoning Lawsuits
Widespread cases of food poisoning can lead to large-scale litigation. For example, there have recently been a number of cases filed in the wake of the outbreak of E. coli. People in 11 states were sickened from consuming this romaine lettuce. It is believed that nearly 150 people were sickened in this outbreak. At least five lawsuits have been filed in conjunction with the tainted romaine lettuce. Many of the plaintiffs required hospitalization, including blood transfusions, due to the severity of their illness. Some of the plaintiffs were sickened by eating romaine lettuce served at Panera Bread. The lawsuits target the lettuce supplier for Panera. Further, several restaurants have been sued because the plaintiffs were sickened by food that they ate there.
Food contamination litigation
Another example of widespread food contamination litigation is the lawsuits that have been filed against Chipotle. The Mexican restaurant chain was the originator of a nationwide outbreak of E. coli starting in 2015. As of August 2018, there were over 700 cases filed against Chipotle for food poisoning claims. These consist of both individual claims as well as class action lawsuits. There was another outbreak that has been traced to a Chipotle in Ohio that has led to an increase in the number of suits against Chipotle.
Food Poisoning as Product Liability Cases
When it comes to lawsuits that stem from instances of food poisoning, there are a number of different possible defendants. The company that manufactured the product may be held liable for making the food that made you sick. Further, if you purchased the food at a grocery store, that establishment can also be sued for selling you the food. Similarly, a restaurant where you ate the food can also be legally responsible for your illness. A lawyer will likely advise you to sue both the manufacturer and the seller of the food. You will receive the verdict or the settlement and it is up to the two companies to fight it out to see who has to pay what share of your award.
In most states, all you have to show is that the food was contaminated and that the contamination was the cause of your illness. It does not matter whether the manufacturer was negligent in how they prepared the food. Of course you can always show that the supplier was negligent and that may increase your jury award. However, under the products liability theory, proving negligence is not required.
Food poisoning lawsuit lawyer
If you have been sickened by any type of food, it is best to get the documentation from your doctor of the reason why you were sickened. Your medical records should contain the diagnosis of whatever foodborne illness you contracted. Then, you should seek out legal counsel to figure out whether you have a viable legal claim against anyone who may have had a role in selling that food to you. It is vital that you contact a salmonella lawsuit lawyer immediately, while the evidence that can back up your claim is still available. In addition, there is also the issue with the statute of limitations that can place a time limit on filing a claim. The E. Coli lawsuit lawyer can tell you after reviewing the facts of your case whether they believe that you have a viable legal claim.
If you or a loved one have been sickened by tainted food, contact a food poisoning lawyer today to learn more about your legal rights.