Depending on many factors surrounding your illness, you may be able to sue if you get food poisoning. Your case depends on many variables, such as time delays between eating the food and our illness, or if the food came from a government health agency, and others. There are a few legal theories you should be familiar with, under which food poisoning lawsuits usually fall.
- Strict product liability. Strict liability relieves you of having to show that the manufacturer or supplier of a contaminated food product did not exercise reasonable care in making or distributing that product. You would only have to show that the food product you ate was contaminated, and that the contamination was the cause of your illness.
- Negligence. In some cases where there is not strict liability, you could argue that the defendants in your case acted negligently in manufacturing or distributing the contaminated food product. In order to prove negligence, you must show that the defendants failed to exercise reasonable care in making or distributing the contaminated food product, and that their negligence led to your illness
- Breach of warranties. States often have certain minimum standards on products, and the contamination of the food product involved in your case may be a violation, or “breach.” of those warranties. The contamination may also violate any express guarantees supplied by the food processor, for instance if they claim a pre-prepared bag of salad is “triple-washed.”
Next you must prove your claim, which can be the most difficult step. To prove your claim you will have to prove 2 things:
- The food you ate was contaminated. First you will have to determine the exact food product that made you sick. If there is a time delay between eating the contaminated food and the onset of of food poisoning, it may be more difficult to figure out what product made you sick. Proving a link between the food you ate and contamination is easiest in cases where a government health agency steps in and traces an outbreak of food poisoning to a particular source. In those cases, the government uses scientific testing which determines the particular type of microbes that were present in the contaminated food. This can be very helpful and important because it can provide solid evidence linking the contaminated product with your illness.
- The contamination made you sick. Not only must you prove your food was contaminated, but you will also need to prove that your illness was caused by the contaminated food. The best way to do this is to have a stool sample scientifically tested for food poisoning. If you can show that your stool sample contained the same microbes that were found in the contaminated food source, you will provide more solid evidence for your claim.
When figuring out who to sue in a food poisoning case, it is important to identify all potential defendants. You are generally advised to pinpoint anyone in the chain of distribution, meaning anyone involved in getting your food from the manufacturing source to your grocery store. From there, you will need to find the source of the contamination.
It is also important to note the statute of liability for these cases. In California, you have 2 years from the start of your illness or injury to bring a personal injury lawsuit.