As Chipotle locations are reopening after multiple, multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks, consumers are becoming more concerned about whether their food is safe. According to the law, a business can be held liable for failing to use reasonable care when preparing, storing, or selling food.
Under a negligence approach, the plaintiff must show that the restaurant failed to meet its duty to provide a safe environment, to make meals and food items that are safe to consume, and to identify and prevent unreasonable dangers that affect consumer health and safety. The plaintiff must also prove that the defendant’s failure to meet these duties was the direct cause of his or her harm.
Some states also impose a strict liability standard against restaurants and food sellers. Under strict liability, the plaintiff does not have to demonstrate that the defendant failed to use reasonable care. Instead, the plaintiff must show that he or she consumed food served by the establishment or purchased at the store that was unreasonably dangerous. States also allow plaintiffs to bring a variety of breach of warranty claims against potentially liable food producers and sellers.
Also, some states allow plaintiffs to bring a variety of breach of warranty claims against potentially liable food producers and sellers. Under these claims, the plaintiff must show that the product failed to conform to an ordinary purchaser’s expectations and that the restaurant failed to comply with basic specifications regarding the product’s quality.
A plaintiff may recover many different categories of damages in a food contamination case, including medical expenses, missed paychecks, loss of future earning capacity, and other out-of-pocket costs, in addition to pain and suffering or emotional distress compensation.
To help ensure the safety of our food system, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) issues Warning Letters to establishments that have violated certain health and safety regulations. Recently, the FDA issued warning letters to a food manufacturing facility in California and a seafood importing company in New York. Testing samples from the California facility revealed the presence of the pathogen Listeria, which can cause severe illnesses and injuries. At the New York facility, the FDA identified substantial violations of the regulations governing the processing of imported seafood.
Food companies can also initiate recalls of their products when there are concerns about the presence of dangerous pathogens, or when a specific health hazard has been identified. This week, for example, Living Tree Community Foods in California recalled two of its organic macadamia nut products over concerns that the products contain the dangerous bacteria Salmonella. The products are sold in California and Connecticut as well as by mail-order. No illnesses associated with the products have been reported so far.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries as the result of contaminated food, you may be entitled to compensation. At Moll Law Group, our dedicated team of personal injury lawyers has provided seasoned legal guidance to victims throughout the nation, including in Texas, Florida, and Illinois. We provide a free consultation to help you learn about the options available to you, so call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us online to set up your appointment.