Food poisoning is a common, potentially life-threatening problem for millions of people in the United States. Food poisoning occurs as a result of consuming contaminated food or beverages. People infected with pathogens may experience symptoms ranging from mild intestinal discomfort to severe dehydration and bloody diarrhea. Depending on the type and severity of infection, some people may decide to treat their food poisoning at home. However, in some instances, a case of food poisoning could be severe and cause an individual to suffer internal organ damage or die as a result of a foodborne illness.
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What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is a poisoning of the body resulting from tainted, expired, or mishandled foods or beverages. Foodborne illness results in injury typically caused by contaminated food or food that is not prepared correctly.
A wide variety of contaminants have the potential to poison humans, including:
- Insect/rodent exposure
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately one in six Americans develop a food poisoning illness every year.
Types of Food Poisoning
At least 250 different types of food poisoning have been documented, but the most common varieties are e. coli, listeria, salmonella, and norovirus, commonly referred to as the “stomach flu.” Other less common illnesses include botulism, campylobacter, vibrio, and shigella.
E. coli (Escherichia coli) is a type of bacteria that normally lives in the intestines of humans and other mammals. Most types of E. coli are harmless and even help keep your digestive tract healthy; however, other strains can cause potentially life-threatening health effects if you eat products that have become contaminated (such as raw meat) from grocery stores or drink fouled water. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea that often is bloody, fever of about 100 F to 101 F (37.7 C to 38.3 C), malaise, loss of appetite, and dehydration.
Salmonella is the type of bacteria that’s the most frequently reported cause of illness from foods in the U.S. You can’t see, smell, or taste it. Illness from salmonella bacteria is referred to as salmonellosis, which causes symptoms including upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, and pain, and stomach cramps. It has been estimated that more than 48 million people develop salmonella infections each year worldwide.
Listeriosis is an infection caused by ingesting the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis each year in the U.S., and about 260 dies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 1 million get the illness worldwide. Symptoms include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions, fever, vomiting, and muscle aches.
Norovirus is an extremely contagious virus that causes symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea. The virus spreads easily, as people with the infection can shed more than 1 million norovirus particles at a time. And only a few virus particles can make other people sick.
Clostridium botulinum is found in soil and untreated water throughout the world. It produces spores that survive in improperly preserved or canned products, where they become contaminated and produce a toxin. Symptoms of botulism include difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, vomiting, double vision, drooping eyelids, blurry vision, slurred speech, difficulty breathing, and difficulty moving the eyes.
Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis. People can become infected with cyclospora by consuming foods or water contaminated with the parasite. Symptoms include diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue.
Hepatitis A is the only common foodborne disease preventable by vaccine. It is 1 of 5 hepatitis viruses that infect the liver. While hepatitis B and C can turn into chronic hepatitis, hepatitis A typically does not; although it can lead to liver failure and death. Hepatitis A is rare in the U.S., with 30,000 to 50,000 cases occurring each year. However, in most other countries, poorer sanitation systems lead to easier transmission of the disease, and therefore more cases (up to 1 million cases per year globally, according to the CDC). Symptoms include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-colored urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
Food Safety Tips
The following tips can be used to prevent illnesses and ensure food safety:
- Clean – wash your hands and work surfaces before, during, and after preparing meals.
- Separate – separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from ready-to-eat goods.
- Cook – cook meals to the correct prepared internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria.
- Chill – keep your refrigerator 40°F or below.
Food Poisoning Settlements
Some recent major settlements include:
- A dozen office workers in Connecticut became violently ill after eating a catered lunch from a well-known local restaurant. The caterer was found to be liable for the illnesses and ordered to pay a settlement of $370,000, or about $30,000 per attendee.
- A Michigan man who became ill and almost died after eating meat that was contaminated with E. coli received a $650,000 settlement. Among other issues, the man was hospitalized with medical problems including diarrhea, acute renal failure, and hypotension.
- Maple Leaf Foods paid almost $27 million to victims of a listeria outbreak. The outbreak killed 20 people and sickened thousands more. Anyone who consumed the affected meat products and fell ill was entitled to up to $125,000 in direct compensation. The families of those who died received six-figure payouts.
- Another major outbreak resulted in a class-action lawsuit against ConAgra. This led the company to reach multi-million dollar settlements with hundreds of victims who suffered medical problems after eating salmonella-tainted peanut butter. Hundreds of Americans were sickened during the mid-2000s.
- A Northern California man who contracted a severe infection after being served contaminated raw oyster meat received a $1 million out-of-court settlement from 5 companies involved in the transport and sale of the Louisiana shellfish. Defendants included Holiday Inns Inc., United Shell Fish Co., Fisherman’s Wharf Seafoods Inc. of San Francisco, California, Pearson Seafood, and Pride Transport Inc.
Theories of Liability in Food Poisoning Lawsuits
Food poisoning lawsuits typically fall under the category of legal product liability claims, the idea being that you have been sold a defective product that caused you severe pain and suffering or other health effects. Food can be considered “defective” in a legal sense for the following reasons:
- Contamination occurred before the product arrived at the restaurant.
- It spoiled faster than it should have because of improper storage or temperature control.
- Insufficient cooking or raw foods might have failed to destroy a commonly found bacterium.
Strict Product Liability
Strict liability law relieves clients of any burden to show that the manufacturer or supplier of a contaminated product was not sufficiently careful in making or distributing that product. That’s a big advantage since it means you simply have to show that the food product you were eating was contaminated and that the contamination was the cause of your medical injury.
Clients may be able to argue that the defendants acted negligently in manufacturing or supplying the contaminated food product that caused the infection. In order to prove negligence, you would need to show that the defendants were not reasonably careful (that is, that they “failed to exercise reasonable care”) in making or distributing the contaminated food product that made you sick. If, for example, the restaurant knew that a particular type of tainted lettuce had been recalled but served it anyway, clients may be entitled to compensation for negligence.
Breach of Warranty
Most states impose minimum standards on products (known as “implied warranties”). So, the contamination of a food product could constitute a violation (or “breach”) of those implied warranties. Additionally, the contamination might form a violation of any express guarantees supplied by the food processor.
How to File a Food Poisoning Lawsuit
When you buy groceries or go out to eat at a restaurant, you expect delicious food and a good time; you do not expect to get sick from a foodborne illness. To win a food poisoning lawsuit, you must prove that a specific food or restaurant caused a personal injury. If your illness required you to be hospitalized or you were exposed to a particularly dangerous contaminant, and your condition lasted for more than a few days, it is important to seek consultation from experienced attorneys. Call Schmidt & Clark, LLP, today at (866) 588-0600 or fill out the form below if you got sick and believe that contaminated food may be to blame.
Contacting a Food Poisoning Lawyer
If you or a loved one has suffered from a food poisoning or related illness, call the food poisoning lawyers at Schmidt & Clark, LLP, today for a free case evaluation — you may be eligible for financial compensation for your pain and suffering and we can help you file a claim. It is important to understand that not every law firm is the same. Our food poisoning attorneys are passionate about fighting for the rights of victims and obtaining the justice and compensation they deserve.
Do I Need a Food Poisoning Lawyer?
The Food Poisoning Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial attorneys that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Food Poisoning Lawsuits. We are handling individual personal injury cases nationwide and currently offering a free consultation to potential clients in food poisoning cases in all 50 states.
If you or another person you know has experienced symptoms of food poisoning, please contact our law firm immediately with your name/phone for a free consultation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a food poisoning lawsuit and our attorneys can help. Phone our Food Poisoning Lawyers now toll-free at (866) 588-0600 or fill out the contact form below to get your free legal advice.