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Food Poisoning: A Legal FAQ

Dec 31, 2017 | Personal Injury FAQs

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foodborne diseases is the cause for nearly 76 million illnesses each year. About 325,000 cases of hospitalization and nearly 5,000 deaths are caused by food poisoning each year in the United States. Known pathogens account for about 14 million of these illnesses, and 1,800 deaths.

So, what is food poisoning?

People succumb to food poisoning which is also known as foodborne illnesses by consuming food that may contain viruses and bacteria. There are several ways this could happen. The food you eat could get infected at the farm, or during packaging, or get exposed to bacteria and virus en route the stores, or get infected due to improper storage and cooking at either a restaurant or even your home.

While the exact cause of food poisoning could be hard to determine – the symptoms begin to rear its ugly head a few days after consuming contaminated food. A few of the symptoms of food poisoning are watery diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, cramps, and in some cases even fever.

These symptoms can mimic those of stomach flu and other such ailments and thus make food poisoning hard to detect at times. Most instances of food poisoning are mild and people recover in less than a week’s time. Other more severe cases may lead to serious injuries and need hospitalization too.

What are the common sources of food poisoning?

As mentioned earlier bacteria and virus in food are the main causes of food poisoning. Certain bacteria and viruses are associated with food borne illnesses and also feature in periodic outbreaks. Some, such instances include salmonella, e. coli, Listeria, and norovirus. The FDA lists out frequent foodborne disease causing bacteria and virus from time to time.

Viruses and bacteria can contaminate just about any kind of food. That said, there are some food that are more susceptible to contamination and associated with food poisoning more than others. Eggs, poultry, meat, dairy products, shellfish, and leafy green veggies are food that tends to get easily contaminated.

In the recent past, there have been many outbreaks of e. coli infected spinach, listeria infecting cheese and milk products, and salmonella infecting meat and eggs. It goes without saying that prevention is the best cure. Properly refrigerating food, cooking the right way, and following best practices to store food can dramatically reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Any food item or even beverage can get contaminated with infectious microorganisms, if it is handled with unwashed hands, or it comes in contact with other contaminated food or liquids. Below is a list of common types of poisoning:

  • Campylobacteriosis caused by Campylobacter bacteria.
  • Botulism caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria.
  • Escherichia coli food poisoning caused by eating food contaminated with certain strains of E. coli bacteria.
  • Shigellosis caused by Shigella bacteria.
  • Staphyloenterotoxicosis caused by Staphylococcus bacteria.
  • Listeriosis caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.
  • Mushroom poisoning caused by eating poisonous mushrooms.
  • Cryptosporidiosis caused by Cryptosporidium protozoa.

What sort of injuries can be sustained due to food poisoning?

As per a report issued by the CDC, nearly 48 million Americans succumb to food poisoning each year. This means 1 in every 6 Americans suffer from an episode of food poisoning every year. Most people suffer from the common symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, cramps, abdominal pain, and fever that go away on their own. Infants, elderly people, and people with a weak immune system are susceptible to developing severe symptoms or complications and may need medication, and also hospitalization which can impose financial hardship on them.

Severe symptoms include renal or liver problems, bloody diarrhea, severe dehydration, and even neurological problems.

Can people who succumb to food poisoning, sue?

Yes, they can. Anybody who suffers from food poisoning can sue the person or establishment responsible for it. This can be a restaurant that may have sold a dish that caused the food poisoning or a meat store that sold contaminated meat.

You will have to contact a personal injury attorney who will be able to help you get a fair compensation for lost income, medical costs, hospital bills, and other damages by filing a product liability lawsuit, or a personal injury lawsuit as applicable.

What are some practical concerns about filing a food poisoning lawsuit?

There are certain practical difficulties that you may face when you have to file a food poisoning lawsuit. Many people fall ill after consuming contaminated food. However, identifying the culinary culprit can be hard. Also, a lawsuit must be able to establish that a person or establishment is legally responsible or liable for an injury.

This can be rather hard to prove when it comes to food poisoning as a plaintiff will not be able to produce the food in question in order to prove that it is in fact contaminated. Lastly, a majority of these cases aren’t serious enough to make the time and money spent on a lawsuit worthwhile.

There may be certain cases that can address all the above said concerns. Clear-cut cases of packaged food products or dishes served at restaurants causing food poisoning do occur. When a number of people who may have eaten at the restaurant suffer from food poisoning, it becomes easier to prove that the food was indeed contaminated.

Certain severe injuries that call for hospitalization also make a lawsuit worthwhile. In certain cases, people may die from food poisoning and a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by surviving family members to recover compensation. This is where RMFW Law needs to come into your life.

We know these types of cases in New York with the best of them!

Bartaco tied to Outbreak of Hepatitis A

From time to time, there are reports of an outbreak of food poisoning that affects some people who may have eaten at the specific joint. When there are multiple reports of food poisoning, the health department steps in to check the cause and what could be done to remedy it.

Four patrons and one employee contracted hepatitis A after visiting Bartaco earlier this year. The health department urged patrons who visited the eatery between October 13th and 23rd to receive preventative treatment. It is said that the health department discovered that an employee worked at the restaurant while suffering from Hepatitis A. Since, preventative treatment is effective only within two weeks of exposure to the virus, all those who dined at the restaurant were asked to seek medical attention.

First lawsuit in Chincoteague food poisoning filed by PA man

A local from Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit seeking a whopping $500,000 as compensation from a Chincoteague business. Health authorities claim that they served clam chowder that was infected with salmonella at a food festival.

Charles Coffield, a resident of West Alexander, fell very ill soon after eating the chowder according to the lawsuit.

A Seattle law firm that handles foodborne illness cases – Regan Zambri Long and Marler Clark filed the lawsuit for him. The lawsuit was filed against Shrimp Heads Inc. in Virginia.

The chowder served at the Chincoteague Chili Chowder Cook Off, tested positive for salmonella according to the lawsuit. The victim is demanding a jury trial.

The food festival was hosted by the Chincoteague Island Volunteer Fire Company, which also is the owner of the wild pony herd and hold the famous Pony Penning.

According to the lawsuit, Coffield ate a large helping of clam chowder that was sold by the restaurant at the cook-off on September 30th.

The very next day, he began to suffer from nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, muscle aches, fever, headache, lightheadedness, and chills.

Coffield had to be taken to the Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital in Onley by an ambulance on October 3rd. He suffered for weeks after the incident and also missed many days of work. Tests confirmed that Coffield was indeed suffering from a salmonella infection and the result was thereafter reported to Accomack County as well as the Department of Health of Virginia.

That is not all. Close to 180 people fell ill after the event as per the Eastern Shore Health District. Most of them were residents of Virginia. A number of them were also from Maryland.

A number of cases were reported from New Jersey, West Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware, and New York who also attended the event. Half or more of those who became ill after the cook-off had to seek medical care. 20% of them needed emergency care while 10 percent of them were hospitalized for at least one night or more. There were no deaths reported.

The health department investigated these claims and on Oct 24th was able to establish that the chowder served by the restaurant was the source and the culprit behind the salmonella outbreak.

A health district personnel quoted that the incident was just a point source outbreak and the chowder now served at the establishment is safe. The risk of illness was just a one day, one thing, one place, one group thing, according to Dr. David Matson, who is the director of the Eastern Shore Health District.

He in fact went to Chincoteague soon after on October 26th and ate a bowl of the same chowder to demonstrate that the risk was gone.

Coffield on the other hand stated that the business was mandated to use raw materials and supplies that comply with food laws as well as regulation and also to use care in not just making it but also storing and selling the chowder in a manner that it was free from Salmonella – and that the restaurant breached this duty.

A spokeswoman representing the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company said that the company will continue to host the annual event, but will take extra safety precautions.

How long do you have to file a lawsuit?

Each state has a certain time limit called the statute of limitation within which a personal injury claim must be filed. The time limit for product liability claims will vary from one state to another. Most states have a two year time limit, while some have three years.

If you are one among the many victims of an outbreak caused by food poisoning, you can get together with others and file a class action lawsuit. In certain cases, a class action may already be filed in connection with the outbreak of food poisoning that made you fall sick, and you could just join the already existing lawsuit. When you join an existing class action you have several advantages such as:

  • The lawyer representing the case may have considerable experience and expertise in filing big cases against big companies.
  • There may be little or no upfront cost that needs to borne by you. The legal professionals handle the costs and will only take a percentage at the end of trial or after the case is settled out of court.
  • You do not have to deal with any potentially complex legal issues. What happened is pretty apparent.

Though there are several advantages to joining an existing class action and filing your own lawsuit instead. But, before you do so, you must consult a lawyer to check if there is an existing class action for the outbreak in question, and whether or not it is advisable for you to join it. Most law firms will gladly assist you with such questions in a free of charge consultation.

The consultation with RMFW Law is free. We only win if you win. You never have to write us a check.

When should you take legal action for food poisoning?

Food poisoning cases are quite common and it is the business that sells the tainted food that is often the culprit. However, that doesn’t mean that you must call an attorney just because you aren’t feeling too well after a late night dinner at a new diner around the corner.

You must consider filing a lawsuit when you have been struck with hefty medical bills and other costs due to an acute bout of food poisoning. You may then contact a personal injury attorney to pursue legal action against the store or restaurant.

If you or someone you know, has suffered from an acute bout of food poisoning and had to be hospitalized as a result of something you ate at a new diner or from a store in your neighborhood, you must contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff, of RMFW Law at 212 697 9280.

Our skilled attorneys understand that something as small as food poisoning can make you lose income and cause you a lot of discomfort and anguish. Call us today to discuss your case and understand if you can file for compensation.

If you miss days at work you should be compensated. That missed time at work could have real life financial implications. You may have missed something vital. You have every right to seek financial compensation. The pain and suffering you have endured is terrible. This virus ravaged your body, it is time to ravage the person/s at fault financially.

This is a legal matter. Call us today!