ClickCease Who Is Liable for Foodborne Illness Outbreaks?

Who Is Liable for Foodborne Illness Outbreaks?

Foodborne disease outbreaks can be a frightening and disruptive experience. From agriculture to food production to the restaurant where you got sick, you may wonder who is liable for your suffering. That answer is often complicated, as multiple parties are usually involved in the food chain.

Even when you narrow down the search and find the blame for the illness, the legal process to hold them accountable involves product liability lawyers’ specific expertise. But don’t be discouraged — when a foodborne illness occurs, and you and a loved one fall ill, you can hold the responsible parties accountable, and the food poisoning lawyers at Regan Zambri Long can help. Call today for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn about all your legal options.

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What Are Foodborne Illnesses?

Consuming contaminated foods and beverages can cause foodborne illnesses. These foods and drinks carry harmful germs, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other toxins, that cause severe illness when they enter an individual’s body.

Foodborne illnesses are a major public health issue in the United States and worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which records outbreak information, reports that an estimated 48 million people fall ill from foodborne diseases yearly. Another 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from illness.

Symptoms of foodborne disease range from mild to life-threatening. Victims may experience:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • High fever
  • Joint/back aches
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Respiratory failure
  • Death

Symptoms can begin as early as one hour after ingesting the contaminated food and last for months. In cases of Hepatitis A, caused by raw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods, and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler, the person may not experience symptoms until about 28 days after eating the contaminated food.

Determining Liability in Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

It’s important to note that a foodborne disease outbreak differs from food poisoning. According to the CDC, foodborne outbreaks are incidents in which two or more persons experience a similar illness resulting from ingesting common food. Many times, poisoned food occurs from environmental contamination.

Who is liable for foodborne illness outbreaks?

Determining who is liable for a foodborne disease outbreak is complex, to say the least, because of many contributing factors. The path a single piece of food takes from a farm or sea to someone’s plate involves multiple parties — producers, distributors, retailers, and restaurants.

Each part of the food supply chain is legally responsible for following food safety standards established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The regulations include proper handling, storage, and preparation techniques that minimize the risk of contamination. In this long list of the food supply chain, identifying the culprit responsible for the food contamination can be as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack.

In these situations, a food poisoning lawyer with specialized knowledge of federal regulations and who can conduct thorough investigations of your case is essential. An attorney will examine each step of the supply chain — from where the food originally came from to each hand it passed through before it caused your illness — ensuring victims recover the financial compensation they need for medical help and lost wages.

Understanding Foodborne Illness

Foodborne outbreaks can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime. If you consume a piece of food or a sip of a beverage, you inherently risk allowing harmful contaminants into your body. Although there are over 200 food-related diseases, some of the most common illnesses are Salmonella, E. Coli, norovirus, Giardia, Campylobacter, and Listeria.

Young children are at a higher risk of food poisoning because their immune systems are still developing. Their bodies can’t fight germs and sicknesses, and neither can adults. Severe food poisoning with symptoms like diarrhea and dehydration is particularly dangerous for younger kids. Parents should seek medical attention quickly.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 600 million people fall ill from foodborne disease outbreaks annually, and almost half a million (442,000) people die each year from foodborne disease.

Liability in Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

Instead of reacting to outbreaks after they occur, the FDA implemented new rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act. The act requires facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or store food for animals and humans alike to:

  • Identify any hazards to consumers
  • Put preventative controls in place to minimize threats and promote food safety

The new rules apply to imported goods and domestic food products in the United States. They also require companies transporting food (shippers, loaders, carriers, and receivers) to use specific sanitary practices to ensure food safety.

Even with these regulations, foodborne disease outbreaks still happen. For a victim, lost wages due to missed work and unexpected medical bills from hospitalization can cause significant financial distress. This is why a food poisoning attorney is necessary.

Their expertise in food safety regulations – new and old – will help you recover the compensation you need to offset medical costs and lost income. While you recover from contaminated food, your personal injury lawyer will help you recover financially.

The Role of Food Poisoning Lawyers

As you may have already guessed, the main role of a food poisoning lawyer is to determine who is liable for a foodborne illness outbreak and then prosecute the individual (or company) responsible for securing damages for the victims of the illness. How does a lawyer do that? With the legal theories of product liability and strict liability.

Product liability occurs when a product you use causes an injury or illness. In a product liability claim, the victim’s lawyer must prove that the injuries or illness resulted from a product defect, carelessness from another party, or negligence.

For example, you bought a box of granola bars labeled “all natural.” After consuming one of the bars, you suffer from a severe allergic reaction only to discover that the granola bars contain undeclared peanuts, a known allergen. This would be a product liability case, where the manufacturer failed to label the product properly, causing individual harm. Your personal injury attorney would argue that failing to label the product properly is negligence.

Strict liability cases are a little bit different. With strict liability cases, the victim’s personal injury lawyer must prove the product was used as intended but does not necessarily need to prove negligence. In contaminated food cases, a plaintiff must show that the food served by the restaurant or bought at the store was defective and unreasonably dangerous. There isn’t a requirement to show a lack of reasonable care, which is the main way strict liability differs from product liability.

For example, you ate a burger at a local restaurant. It turns out the burger had E. coli, leaving you bedridden for days with severe cramps, nausea, and dehydration. In this case, you may not need to prove the restaurant acted negligently, like improper food labeling. Your lawyer needs to demonstrate the following:

  • Your burger was contaminated, making it defective and unreasonably dangerous for consumption.
  • You ate the burger and subsequently fell ill.
  • There is a clear link between the contaminated burger and your illness.

Your lawyer may collect evidence from medical records, stool samples, or restaurant inspections to fulfill these criteria. If the restaurant fulfills the criteria, it may be liable for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by food poisoning.

The Value of Food Poisoning Lawyers

Who is liable for foodborne illness outbreaks?

The legal process can feel overwhelming after a foodborne disease outbreak. Knowing the difference between product liability and strict liability, investigating where the outbreak began, and how to hold each liable party responsible — the average person without a law degree will have trouble taking that on.

In these cases, a food poisoning lawyer is an essential advocate. At Regan Zambri Long, our attorneys have the insight into the legal nuances of your case, using strict liability, where the contaminated food itself is considered inherently dangerous, or product liability, where negligence may be involved. Most importantly, we are qualified to argue your case effectively in court. Representing yourself wouldn’t be in your best interest.

At Regan Zambri Long, we deeply understand your stress and your family’s. We will aggressively negotiate with insurance companies to secure a fair settlement. However, we are prepared to take your case to trial to fight for maximum compensation if necessary. Call today for a free consultation.

Schedule a Free Consultation

Have you or your loved one sustained injuries in Washington DC, Maryland or Virginia? Regan Zambri Long PLLC has the best lawyers in the country to analyze your case and answer the questions you may have.

Call 202-960-4596

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