Product liability is the set of laws that hold a manufacturer, wholesaler, or seller of a product accountable for defective products that are in the stream of commerce. Under product liability laws, any party that is responsible for any part of the manufacture or sale of a defective product may be held liable for injuries that result from that defective product’s use by a consumer.
For example, when manufacturing a food product that contains multiple ingredients, numerous different parties are involved in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of the food product. One manufacturer may create one ingredient, while another may create another combination of ingredients.
All of the individually manufactured ingredients would then be brought together and assembled by another company to make the final consumable product. After the final product is complete, one party will then be in charge of distributing the product to wholesalers, who will then sell the final product to stores, who will then in turn sell the product to a consumer.
Continuing the above example, if a completed food product is defective, then any of the following parties involved may be held liable for any resulting injuries:
- The manufacturer that cooked or combined all of the ingredients for the product;
- The wholesaler that received the completed product and sold the product to the distributor;
- The store that sold the defective product to the consumer; and/or
- The manufacturer of the specific ingredient of the completed product that was found to be defective.
Once again, product liability law is its own distinct category of law within civil law. This means that product liability law differs from typical personal injury civil lawsuits. This is because product liability laws are designed to protect and compensate consumers for their injuries, while also serving as a deterrent to manufacturers by punishing those responsible for defective goods in the stream of commerce.
What Are Some Different Types of Food Poisoning?
There are many different forms and types of food poisoning. Most cases of food poisoning are caused by bacteria originating in the food itself, and not from the presence of poison in the food such as arsenic. Some food poison is the result of being spread from workers to consumers, due to the improper handling, preparation, undercooking, or failure to dispose of expired products.
As such, proving a product liability claim based on food poisoning is often complicated as it can involve any of the several different parties mentioned above. With regard to restaurant food poisoning, the liability for the food poisoning may also be traced to numerous parties, including the restaurant owner/manager, cooks, chefs, waiters, or other personnel that came into contact with the poisoned food product.
Examples of the most common types of food poisoning include:
- E. Coli: E. coli infection is traceable to bacteria found in many meat and vegetable products. Common symptoms of e. coli include irritable bowel syndrome, and in some cases kidney failure;
- Salmonella: Salmonella is mainly caused by foods of animal origin, including poultry, eggs, and fish. In particular, uncooked meat is the most common source of salmonella;
- Listeriosis: Listeriosis is caused by the presence of listeria bacteria. Listeria is most commonly found in water and some soils, and can become lodged in vegetable products.
- Listeriosis disease primarily affects pregnant women and their newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems; and
- Noroviruses: Noroviruses are responsible for the common “stomach flu.” Noroviruses are different from bacterial poisoning as noroviruses are very contagious and do not respond to any antibiotic treatment.
- Noroviruses are usually caused by poor hygiene of individuals that prepare food, such as unwashed hands or unsanitary conditions in restaurants.
In addition to the above list, there are many other different types of food poisoning. Other forms of food poisoning can cause illnesses ranging from mild digestive irritation to severely debilitating injuries, such as organ failure.
What Types of Injuries Are Associated With Food Poisoning?
As noted above, food poisoning can lead to various different symptoms. Many food poisoning symptoms are associated with a particular bacteria. For example, salmonella is often accompanied by abdominal cramping. Examples of other common symptoms and injuries resulting from food poisoning include:
- Digestive disorders such as:
- Upset Stomach and cramping;
- Diarrhea; and
- Loss of fluids.
- Fever-like symptoms including:
- Joint and body pains;
- Muscle aches; and
- More permanent injuries such as:
- Kidney or organ failure;
- Blood disorders as the contaminant travels from the intestine into the bloodstream; and
- Reiter’s syndrome, which includes pains in an individual’s joints, irritation of their eyes, and painful urination.
In some food poisoning cases, prolonged or repeated food poisoning can lead to death. Additionally, many people don’t know that food poisoning symptoms can also be transferred to infants upon birth. As such, if a woman is pregnant and experiencing food poisoning, it is important to immediately consult with a physician. The contaminants of food poisoning may often linger in the mother’s body for some time and then be transferred to the baby.
How Do I Recover From Losses Associated With Food Poisoning?
As mentioned above, part of the difficulty in filing a food poisoning claim is identifying the exact party who is liable for your injuries. As such, the party that suffered harm from the food poisoning (i.e. the plaintiff) may need to consider where they bought the food, where the food was consumed, as well as their individual background of food allergies. Plaintiffs may also wish to initiate a civil lawsuit against a fictitious defendant and later modify their petition once they discover the party responsible for their injuries.
There are typically two basic ways to recover from harms suffered as a result of food poisoning. If the food poisoning resulted from consuming food at a restaurant or other establishment, a plaintiff may be able to sue based on a negligence theory. Among other issues, a plaintiff would need to prove that the restaurant chain breached their duty of care somehow and that the breach of their duty is what ultimately caused the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, a chef may have undercooked the meat that was consumed by the plaintiff, resulting in them getting food poisoning. Alternatively, the meat may have been improperly stored or contaminated by other food products.
If the food was distributed through the commercial market, the party harmed may be able to file a products liability lawsuit. As mentioned above, many cases of food poisoning involve defective products that were released into the stream of commerce in mass quantities. Food poisoning recalls are often a common focus of defective products class action lawsuits.
Although the exact legal elements for a defective product suit differ by state, in order for a consumer that was harmed by a defective product to be successful in their civil lawsuit against the party that harmed them, they must typically prove the following:
- That the product sold to them was in the stream of commerce;
- That the seller or manufacturer was under an obligation to sell or manufacture the food product in such a way to meet the ordinary expectation of average consumers;
- That at the time of the consumption of the product, it was defective;
- That the defect in the product is what caused the product to be unreasonably dangerous to the consumer;
- That the defect was foreseeable (i.e. predictable) by the seller, and that an average consumer could have been injured by the defect; and
- That injury caused an average consumer to sustain quantifiable damages.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Food Poisoning Claim?
Food poisoning can often result in very harmful effects to a consumer, especially if the poisoning leads to prolonged or repeated occurrences of symptoms. As such, if you have been poisoned by a food product, you should immediately consult with an experienced defective products lawyer.
An experienced attorney will be able to help you determine who is liable for your injuries, as well as initiate a civil lawsuit on your behalf. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as necessary.