Food Labeling Lawsuits

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 What is a Food Labeling Lawsuit?

A food labeling lawsuit is a type of product liability claim. This type of claim typically involves warning defects.

A warning defect involves a failure to warn public consumers of dangers or risks that are associated with the product. It may also involve general misinformation regarding the food product.

A warning label lawsuit is a lawsuit which is brought by a consumer of a product. A consumer product may include:

  • Food;
  • Drink
  • Drugs;
  • Electronic devices; and
  • Mechanical devices.

Federal law requires that product manufacturers and suppliers provide consumers with an adequate warning of the dangers which a product may pose. Warnings come in the form of a label which describes the dangers that may be associated with the product.

A warning label ensures that a consumer is aware of the dangers which a product may pose. A consumer who was injured by a product which was not properly labeled may be able to sue the product manufacturer or supplier for their injuries.

In some product liability claims, there may be intentional fraud. Other legal issues which may be involved in a food labeling claim may include trademark or copyright violations.

A food labeling violation is dangerous because food products have the potential to reach large sectors of the consumer population. If a food product is improperly labeled or dangerous, many individuals may suffer injuries such as food poisoning or food toxicity. These types of injuries may result in a class action lawsuit.

When Must a Product have a Warning Label?

Pursuant to federal law, if a product poses a danger which is not apparent or obvious to a consumer, then the manufacturer of that product is required to place a warning label on the product. This label must warn consumers of the danger.

It is important to note, however, that the law does not require a warning label for every hypothetical danger which a product may pose. For example, if the danger posed by a product is obvious, such as the danger posed by the use of a firearm, a duty to warn is not imposed.

The failure to warn when it is required is a design defect, or a flaw in the design of the product.

What Kind of Warning is Adequate?

In general, a manufacturer’s duty to warn arises in cases where:

  • The product is dangerous;
  • The manufacturer is aware or should be aware of the danger;
  • The danger exists when the product is utilized in an expected or anticipated manner; and
  • The danger is not obvious to the consumer.

A manufacturer is required to provide a warning which is adequate. A manufacturer is required to provide a warning which adequately instructs consumers regarding the dangers that are posed by typical product uses. In addition, the manufacturer must provide adequate instructions on safe product use.

It is important to note that manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers are not required to provide warning to everyone. A manufacturer or distributor is required to warn consumers who it can anticipate are likely to use the product.

When can a Manufacturer be Liable?

In cases where a manufacturer or supplier breaches their duty to warn by not providing an adequate label, a consumer may be able to sue. In order to prevail, a consumer must show that the failure to warn proximately, or legally, caused an injury resulting in damages, or losses which can be measured in terms of money.

A consume may sue for inadequate warning if:

  • There are expected risks of harm posed by the use of a product;
  • The risks could have been lessened by giving the consumer adequate warning;
  • The failure to provide a warning rendered the product unsafe; and
  • A consumer sustained an injury or injuries due to the failure to adequately warn.

A manufacturer does not have a duty to warn against uses that are unanticipated. For example, a manufacturer is required to provide adequate warnings regarding the anticipated dangers of operating a lawn mower.

The manufacturer, however, is not required to warn regarding dangers of unanticipated use of the product. An unanticipated use may be, for example, using the lawn mower as a weapon.

What are Examples of Food Labeling Violations?

The requirements for food labeling depend on many factors. These factors may include the nature of the food product as well as state law.

Examples of food labeling violations may include:

  • Failure to warn of risks which may be associated with the food product, such as DMAA and other dietary supplements;
  • False information regarding the nutritional content;
  • Misinformation regarding the standard or grade of quality of a product, such as labeling it “Grade AA” when it is an inferior grade;
  • The labeling is difficult or impossible for the consumer to read;
  • Incorrect expiration dates;
  • Wrong label on the product; and
  • Various other types of warning issues.

The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an agency of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services. The FDA regulates food, drink, and drug safety.

The FDA regulates safety of these products by requiring labels that contain specific information. The labels must describe what chemicals and other ingredients a food, drink, or drug product contains.

Pursuant to federal law, a manufacturer of food, drugs, or drinks may not make certain statements regarding the product. For example, if a product claims to provide health benefits, it must also include a disclaimer.

With respect to the alleged benefit, the disclaimer must state that the statement “has not been evaluated by the Food and Drugs Administration.” The disclaimer must also state that the “product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

Can I File a Claim for a Food Labeling Violation?

If an individual feels that they have suffered an injury or financial loss due to a food labeling violation, it may be possible for them to sue a food company. If an individual needs to take action, they should take the following steps:

  • Keep any receipts, documents, and labels that are associated with the product;
  • Gather all hospital bills, prescription medicine receipts, and other papers associated with money the individual has spent on medical treatment;
  • Compile pay stubs if they have lost wages;
  • Make a short written account of the nature of any injuries or economic losses; include how the product may have caused them;
  • Gather any witness statements or evidence from other witnesses if possible; and
  • Contact a lawyer or legal professional if assistance is needed with technical matters.

A food labeling violation may lead to a monetary damages award from the defendant to the plaintiff, or the individual who suffered injuries. In many cases, the defendant is the food manufacturer or distributor.

In some cases, however, another party may be liable, such as an advertising agency or a retail grocer.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

It is crucial to have the assistance of a defective products lawyer with any food labeling issues you may have. A food product lawsuit often involves complex laws and legal analyses.

Your lawyer can review your situation, provide advice, and represent you in court if a lawsuit is necessary. Your attorney will assist you in obtaining a monetary damages award to compensate you for any injury or loss you have suffered.

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