Food poisoning is a common illness caused by eating contaminated food. The federal government estimates that there are roughly 48 million cases of food poisoning every year.
Though you might think of food poisoning as merely a horrible inconvenience, it can be much worse than that. Food poisoning can lead to hospitalization, long-term health issues, and even death.
If you’ve suffered from food poisoning, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the restaurant that served the contaminated food and, in certain situations, the food processor, distributor, or grower.
Food poisoning symptoms can vary depending on the source of the contamination. However, most types of food poisoning cause one or more of the following symptoms:
Food poisoning occurs when a bacteria, virus, or parasite contaminates your food at any point in production, which might include the growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping, or preparing food.
Though many harmful organisms cause food poisoning, 5 germs cause illnesses in the United States more than all the others:
|5 Worst Food Poisoning Germs|
|Norovirus||Diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting (symptoms start 12-24 hours after eating)||Leafy greens, fresh fruits, shellfish, and water|
|Salmonella||Diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, vomiting (symptoms start 6-96 hours after eating)||Raw or undercooked chicken, turkey, and meat; unpasteurized milk and juice; raw fruits and vegetables|
|Clostridium perfringens||Double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech; difficulty swallowing, breathing, and dry mouth; muscle weakness and paralysis (symptoms start 18-36 hours after eating)||Improperly canned or fermented foods (usually homemade)|
|Campylobacter||Diarrhea (often bloody), stomach cramps or pain, fever (symptoms start 2-5 days after eating)||Raw or undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, and contaminated water|
|Staphylococcus aureus||Nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps (symptoms start 30 minutes-6 hours after eating)||Foods that aren’t cooked after handlings, such as sliced meats, pudding, pastries, and sandwiches|
Most people suffer mild symptoms from food poisoning that last several hours to several days. Although this period can be miserable, the symptoms eventually go away and the person recovers.
However, sometimes food poisoning can lead to long-term health issues and even death.
Common long-term health issues associated with food poisoning include:
Though all individuals are at risk, certain groups are more likely to experience long-term health issues or death as a result of food poisoning. These groups include:
Food is considered a product. Because of this, the appropriate lawsuit to bring after suffering from food poisoning is a product liability lawsuit.
Product liability lawsuits provide a remedy for individuals injured as a result of a defective product. A food item that is contaminated may be considered defective and food suppliers, manufacturers, processors, distributors, and others that are part of the food chain may be held liable.
Product liability lawsuits can be brought under the theory of negligence or strict liability. Let’s take a quick look at both theories.
In a product liability case based on negligence, the plaintiff must prove that:
In a product liability case based on strict liability, the plaintiff doesn’t need to prove that the defendant breached any sort of a duty. Rather, the plaintiff only needs to show that:
Anyone responsible for the contamination can be held liable in a food poisoning lawsuit. This might include:
Though each state handles the issue a little differently, everyone in the food chain that contributed to your illness is typically joint and severally liable for the entire amount of your damages. This means that you can sue one of the responsible parties for the entire amount of damages, even if they were only partially at fault.
The party you sue can then turn around and sue the other responsible parties for their share of the damages.
The 2 most common defenses in food poisoning cases are:
The hardest thing to prove in a food poisoning case is that the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. This is because symptoms of food poisoning often don’t appear for hours or even days after consuming the contaminated food. As a result, it can be difficult to prove that the defendant’s contaminated food caused the illness and not some other food that the plaintiff ate in the intermediate period.
To prove that your illness resulted from a specific food item, you may need to have a stool sample tested for the presence of the same microbes that were found in the contaminated food. If testing shows a match, your case will be much stronger. Similarly, if you can link your illness to a wider outbreak of foodborne illness, you will stand a better chance of recovery.
In addition to lack of causation, defendants often avoid liability in food poisoning cases because the damages suffered by the plaintiff aren’t severe enough to warrant the cost of hiring an attorney and pursuing the claim.
Generally speaking, minor symptoms (such as nausea, diarrhea, and dehydration) don’t warrant a lot of expenses. On the other hand, if you’re required to spend time in the hospital or you develop a long-term health issue, damages can be significant.
Here at Enjuris, we hope you never experience food poisoning. But if you do, you can use the Enjuris Lawyer Directory to locate an attorney in your area. Most attorneys offer free initial consultations.