The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around one in six Americans falls seriously ill from eating contaminated food each year. Foodborne illnesses and diseases are costly and sometimes even fatal, and although food poisoning cases are quite common, they are almost always preventable. Food poisoning is generally a result of consuming food or beverages that have been contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or toxic substances. The majority of foodborne illnesses and food poisoning injury lawsuits filed involve foods which are contaminated before they reach a home or restaurant kitchen. Other cases involve foods contaminated by negligent food handlers. If you have fallen ill with a foodborne illness, you may be able to take legal action through food poisoning lawsuits against a restaurant or food distributor.
However, you must be able to prove that the particular food caused the food poisoning, which necessitates specific evidence including a doctor’s diagnosis, proving that the illness caused serious harm, and perhaps genetic tests that match bacteria found on the infected person, a restaurant and food. As a result of food poisoning lawsuits, a victim may be compensated for the results of a serious foodborne illness that could have been prevented by taking regular sanitary precautions. In some cases, food poisoning can lead to huge amounts of medical expenses, loss of wages, and significant pain and suffering.
The amount of money won in a verdict or food injury settlement with a restaurant or food company depends on the severity of the illness and the body of evidence that the affected party is able to preserve. It is prudent to seek immediate medical attention and contact an experienced attorney. Your illness may be related to a larger disease outbreak, and you are more likely to have a successful case.
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Cincinnati, Ohio personal injury attorney with experience in injuries due to food poisoning. The Lyon Firm has represented plaintiffs nationwide in foodborne illness claims.
Food Safety Authorities
In conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is charged with protecting consumers from contaminated foods and any hazardous alternation in the nation’s food supply.
This is a daunting task, and it is estimated that each year about 48 million people suffer from a foodborne illness. Up to 3,000 people die as a direct result of severe food poisoning.
Researchers have identified more than 250 Food-borne Illnesses, mostly infections, caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Toxins, chemicals and allergens also can contaminate foods and cause illness.
Diagnosis of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning occurs when the contaminated food enters the production line — any point during the growing, harvesting, processing, storage, shipping or preparation of the food product. Often cross-contamination and national or international distribution multiply the impacts of a single food outbreak.
The most hazardous culprits include raw foods of animal origin, such as raw meat, poultry, shellfish, uncooked eggs, and unpasteurized milk. Raw fruits and vegetables can also be a concern. Even foods like corn or cereals can contain high levels of mycotoxins, produced by mold on grain.
To protect your legal rights after falling ill from food poisoning, it is important that a medical professional test a urine, blood and stool sample to determine the specific pathogen (bacteria, virus or parasite) that made you sick.
This can narrow down where and how you were affected. Bacterial cells must be sent to a laboratory for genetic testing, and the results will be crucial evidence for a plaintiff. If you have any questions about the important lab testing or legal procedure, contact The Lyon Firm for information.
If the DNA patterns match, this is important evidence that can lead to a successful legal claim. Once you have medical evidence on your side, a personal injury attorney can advise you how to proceed against the negligent party that caused the illness.
Leftover food is sometimes tested to find out if it is contaminated. In some disease outbreaks, lawyers and health officials have gathered leftover food suspected of being the source of an illness. It is important to talk to a lawyer before throwing out leftover food from a restaurant.
Some of the most common pathogens that can contaminate food and cause severe foodborne illness include:
- Clostridium botulinum—may cause botulism, and lead to paralysis
- Campylobacter—causes campylobacteriosis, and may develop into Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)
- E. Coli—can lead to colitis, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP)
- Hepatitis A—can lead to liver damage
- Listeria—causes listeriosis, and may result in meningitis and sepsis
- Salmonella—in severe cases can cause meningitis and sepsis
- Shigella—may cause hemolytic uremic syndrome
- Vibrio—can cause vibriosis, a fatal illness caused by eating raw oysters and other seafood
Food Poisoning Treatment
Specific treatment for food poisoning depends on the severity and the source of the illness, if known. For most people, the illness resolves without treatment within a few days, though some types of food poisoning can last much longer. Treatment may include:
- Rehydration/replacement of fluids and electrolytes—minerals that maintain the balance of fluids in your body are lost in persistent diarrhea and need to be replaced. Some patients with severe diarrhea or vomiting may need hospitalization, where they can receive intravenous salts and fluids to treat dehydration.
- Antibiotics—doctors prescribe antibiotics with certain kinds of bacterial food poisoning. As a general rule, the sooner the treatment begins, the better the results. However, antibiotics may actually worsen symptoms in certain kinds of viral or bacterial food poisoning so it is crucial to identify the affecting pathogen first.
Why File Food Poisoning Lawsuits?
According to the most recent data collected by the CDC, the majority (64 percent) of serious food poisoning outbreaks are caused by food prepared at restaurants, catering events or banquet facilities.
A legal claim against a company is likely to get a fast settlement if you hire an experience personal injury attorney. Filing a lawsuit indicates to the company that you are prepared to prove with sufficient evidence that their negligence caused a serious illness.
A legal claim also communicates to the company that you have an attorney that is willing to fight the company for however long it takes to win rightful compensation.
Once an injury claim is filed, an attorney can take legal steps to obtain relevant corporate and health department documents to help bolster a food poisoning case. Without a lawsuit, it may be difficult to get important company information. At this point, an attorney can interview restaurant employees, management, and other people involved to get additional information.
If you fall seriously ill, you may not be the only one. You may be part of an outbreak that must be contained for the sake of public health safety. Local health departments should know if you are part of an outbreak. People sickened in an outbreak may be able to seek settlements from the company that owns the restaurant.
Whether you get food poisoning from a restaurant or from contaminated food directly from a distributor, contact an attorney to find out if you have a case to sue for rightful compensation.
Food Allergy Lawsuits
About four percent of Americans suffer from a type of food allergy, many of which serious enough for foods to cause an anaphylactic reaction that may be life threatening. As a result an estimated 1,500 deaths occur due to food-related allergic reactions.
Food companies are aware of this, and therefore have a responsibility to protect customers. This responsibility lies with restaurants, grocery stores, food trucks, coffee shops, schools, hospitals and nursing homes.
Following a severe allergic reaction, contact a food safety lawyer to investigate the root cause and potentially save the lives of other consumers who may be in danger of contaminated food products.
The Lyon Firm is dedicated to consumer safety and specializes in consumer protection litigation following injuries. When food companies fail to warn consumers of allergen contamination and injury and deaths occur, they may be held liable.
How to File Food Poisoning Lawsuits
For prompt, effective medical treatment, it is crucial to properly diagnose specific foodborne illnesses as soon as possible. It is also important to document food poisoning diagnoses for legal reasons as well.
To build evidence against a negligent restaurant or food handler, a victim of food poisoning needs to prove that the pathogen (bacteria, virus or parasite) is linked to a particular kitchen or food distributor.
Food poisoning is usually diagnosed with lab tests, and based on a detailed history, including how long a patient has been sick, symptoms and specific foods recently consumed. Medical professionals should perform a physical exam, and look for signs of dehydration.
Diagnostic tests ordered by doctors can include a blood test, urine test, stool culture or examination for parasites. For a stool culture, a stool sample is sent to a laboratory to identify the pathogen causing an illness. Bacteria have DNA patterns identified with pulsed-field gel electrophoreses (PFGE) and whole gene sequencing.
Bacteria have DNA patterns that can be identified with processes called pulsed-field gel electrophoreses (PFGE) and whole gene sequencing. When someone is diagnosed with Campylobacter, E. coli, Salmonella, or another bacterial pathogen, PFGE testing can be performed on bacteria found in the patient, the food and a restaurant.
Once there is medical evidence on the side of a plaintiff, a personal injury attorney can advise on how to proceed against the negligent party that caused the illness.
If an organism is found, doctors are urged to notify local health departments to determine if the food poisoning is linked to a wider outbreak. If you have any questions about the important lab testing or legal procedure, contact The Lyon Firm for information.
Food production companies and distributors have a responsibility to ensure their products are safe for consumers. Should companies fail to regulate themselves and test food before it is sold to the public, plaintiffs may file lawsuits to recover damages, including lost earnings, medical expenses, emotional distress, and physical pain and suffering.
Food Production Lawsuits
Most food in Ohio comes from domesticated animals and plants, and their production occurs on farms or ranches. Though it is the obligation of stores, distributors, restaurants, and manufacturers to prevent food poisoning from being passed to consumers, this is not always the case.
Food poisoning injury lawsuits generally target food producers rather than restaurants. Examples of contamination in food production, processing and distribution include the following:
- If a hen’s reproductive organs are infected, the yolk of an egg can be contaminated
- If the fields are sprayed with contaminated water for irrigation, fruits and vegetables can be contaminated
- Contaminated water or ice used to wash, pack, or chill fruits or vegetables may contaminate the food
- During the slaughter process, germs from an animal’s hide or organs can get into the final meat product
- If germs contaminate surfaces used for food processing, pathogens can spread to foods that touch those surfaces
- If refrigerated food is left on a loading dock for long time in warm weather, it may allow bacteria to grow
- Fresh produce can be contaminated if it is loaded into a truck that was not cleaned after transporting animals or animal products
Food Safety & Illness Prevention
Following simple food safety procedures can greatly reduce the number of foodborne illnesses each year by helping individuals to prevent food poisoning.
Food handlers and those responsible for preparing raw and cooked foods are urged to wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meats and seafood, properly chill foods and cook all meat, seafood and some vegetables thoroughly. The CDC recommends following certain guidelines to safely prepare food including:
- Wash hands with soap and water before and after preparing food
- Wash hands before eating
- Wash utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water
- Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water.
- Separate meats from other foods—do not cross-contaminate raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs
- Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood
- Cook foods to the correct temperature and use a food thermometer—food is only safely cooked when the internal temperature is high enough to kill dangerous pathogens
- After shopping, refrigerate foods promptly. Do not leave perishable food out for more than two hours
- Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.