Injured by Contaminated Food - Now What?
Although it may seem rare, millions of people are actually injured in this country every year because of food borne illnesses and other contamination. If a food product contains a foreign body or disease that causes a consumer injuries and damages, the victim may have the right to monetary compensation. These types of product liability claims are unique and are subject to particular area of California law.
Contaminates Other Than Disease or Illness
In seemingly rare instances, a food product is contaminated with a foreign body such as a piece of metal or plastic that results from the manufacturing process. For example, just last year Tyson Foods recalled thousands of pounds of chicken when it was discovered that some of the chicken had been contaminated with metal shavings. In such a situation, where the injury-causing body is not natural to the food product, liability for those producing the product will likely follow, automatically. The legal test under California law looks at whether the contaminate could be reasonably expected by the average consumer and whether it rendered the food unfit or defective. If a reasonable consumer would not expect to find the foreign body in their food, and it caused injury to the consumer, the manufacturer/producer of the food will be liable in a food product claim or lawsuit. On the other hand, if the "foreign body" is actually something that could be expected to be found within the food (such as a chicken bone served in a chicken pie) then the one providing the food will not be liable unless it can be proven they were negligent in the preparation of the food. (Mexicali Rose v. Superior Court, 1 Cal. 4th 617 (1992))
Illness or Disease Caused by Food
When food contaminated with a disease or illness injures a consumer, the manufacturer of the food will likely be held responsible under a "strict liability" theory. For example, just last month the CDC reported that a number of consumers had been infected with listeria from eating contaminated deli meats. If it can be proven that the listeria outbreak resulted from a particular deli meat then those injured may be able to recover compensation by way of a lawsuit against the responsible company. When illness or disease contaminations occur, they are often the result of sloppy or unsanitary practices by the food manufacturer or producer. This is largely why the law imposes automatic or strict liability.
Evidence in Food Contamination Cases is Critical
Oftentimes the direct evidence needed to prove a contaminated food case is lost, consumed or destroyed. It is not always possible to have the very best evidence (the actual contaminated food), but cases can sometimes be proven by circumstantial evidence, such as purchase receipts, medical records, etc. However, if an injury is caused by food, it is nearly always a good idea to save the food, photograph the foreign object, and store it safely until the conclusion of any claim or lawsuit.
Contacting a Seasoned Product Liability Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured by a contaminated food, consulting a personal injury attorney with decades of experience may help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
Mr. Ralph has 30 years of litigation and trial experience at handling product liability claims, from food claims to those involving medical devices. His City of Orange law office is centrally located in Orange County, allowing him to represent clients from all over the Southern California area.