According to injury laws, a foreign object in food refers to when a person discovers an object in their food or meal. This is an item or object that you would not reasonably expect to be in the food or meal. Some of the most common examples of foreign objects that can be found in food or meals include, but may not be limited to:
- Gravel and rocks;
- Bones; and
- Other animal parts.
Foreign objects found in a person’s food can cause serious injuries to their teeth, gums, throat, and/or digestive tract. Those who have been injured by a foreign object in their food or meal may have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit. Such a lawsuit may be filed against the manufacturer of the food, or the party responsible for preparing the food, such as the restaurant’s owner or chef.
The specific type of foreign object that was found in the food could impact the plaintiff’s ability to recover in terms of a damages award for injuries sustained. It is important to note that it could be difficult to file a personal injury lawsuit if you were injured by an object that could be reasonably expected to be found in food or a meal because of its ingredients or components.
Some examples of this would be:
- Finding a sharp bone shard in a dish that contains meat;
- Chipping a tooth on a peach pit while eating peach cobbler; and
- Swallowing an insect or twig when eating a salad or other pre-packaged produce items.
Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit Over a Foreign Object in My Food or Meal?
Initiating a lawsuit for foreign objects in food, such as finding a fingernail in food, generally begins with the injured party filing a complaint with the appropriate court in their jurisdiction. This is a highly technical legal document, usually drafted by an attorney, which details the relevant facts and specific laws that were supposedly violated by the defendant. A complaint will also explain what the plaintiff would like for the court to do in terms of addressing the issue. An example of this would be to order a damages award, or issue an injunction to prevent the defendant from continuing certain actions.
The plaintiff must provide evidence to support the claims they are making against the defendant. This begins with proving that they were injured by the foreign object found in their food or meal. As previously mentioned, common injuries associated with this sort of claim include:
- Cuts and/or punctures to the mouth and/or throat;
- Broken and/or chipped teeth; and
- Digestion-related illnesses, such as e Coli.
It is important to note that a variety of symptoms can result from allergic reactions to ingredients that were not expected to be found in the food according to how it was labeled.
To prove injuries from foreign objects in food, the plaintiff should provide copies of medical and dental records. An example of this would be a copy of any x-rays that were gathered in order to locate the foreign object. If the foreign object that was found in the food does not cause an injury, there is little chance of success in the personal injury claim. An example of this would be finding a hair in your food.
The plaintiff will also need to provide evidence that their injuries resulted in financial damages. Some examples of the most common types of damages that injury victims are generally awarded include:
- Medical bills;
- Treatment costs; and/or
- Time at work missed due to healing from the injury or seeking medical treatment.
Can a Restaurant or Manufacturer Be Held Liable for a Foreign Object Found in My Food or a Meal?
Personal injury lawsuits, such as those related to a foreign object found in food, are based on the legal theory of negligence. What this means is that in addition to proving injury by the foreign object, the plaintiff must also prove that the restaurant owner, chef, or manufacturer of the food was negligent in some way. An example of this would be if they failed to take the proper steps to prevent the foreign object from entering the food in the first place. Another example would be if they should have been aware of the object prior to it being served or sold.
A party is considered to be negligent if they were careless, given the circumstances, or acted in a way that no other reasonable person would in the same situation. There are four elements that must be met in order to claim negligence:
- Duty: This refers to the responsibility one person owes to another. People going about their day-to-day business generally owe a duty of ‘reasonable care’ to each other. This is the level of care that any ordinary and prudent person would exercise in the same situation;
- Breach of Duty: A breach of duty occurs when a person’s level of care fails to meet the level as required by their duty. In a lawsuit involving a foreign object found in food, an example of this would be a chef who fails to check the food before plating it;
- Causation: Very simply put, this means that the breach of duty was the cause of the resulting injury. The basic test for causation is “but for” one party’s actions, the injury would not have occurred; and
- Damages: Generally speaking, there must be tangible and quantifiable harm that occurred. An example of this would be property damage, or in cases involving a foreign object found in food, a throat injury.
All four elements must be proven in order to successfully prove that the other party was negligent.
According to food tampering laws, restaurants and food manufacturers are required to adhere to all federal, state, and local health codes and regulations. Additionally, they have a legal responsibility to consumers to ensure that they are not injured when eating their meals or consuming their products.
What Do I Do If I Find a Foreign Object in My Food?
If you have been injured by a foreign object in your food or meal, there is specific evidence you should collect for a potential personal injury claim. These may include, but not be limited to:
- Keeping the foreign object, when possible;
- Taking a photo of the foreign object, as well as where it was found in your food or meal;
- Noting any witnesses that could verify your claim;
- Keeping the wrapper, container, or packaging that the food came in;
- Noting the name and address of the restaurant where you ate;
- Recording the date and time of your meal; and
- Obtaining copies of any medical and dental records that could prove that the injuries caused by the foreign object were not present prior to eating the food or meal.
A food law attorney can help you gather evidence to support your claim, and provide legal advice regarding how you should move forward.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer if Foreign Objects in My Food Injure Me?
If you have been injured by foreign objects in your food, you should consult with an experienced local products and services lawyer. State laws may vary in terms of personal injury lawsuits and damages recovery. As such, it is recommended that you work with an area attorney in order to ensure you receive the most relevant legal advice.
An experienced products and services attorney can help you gather evidence, file a lawsuit on your behalf based on the theory of negligence, and also represent you in court, as needed.