Food poisoning occurs today on an almost epidemic scale due to negligence at any step of the food supply chain: grocery stores, restaurants, farmers’ markets … even “organic” food growers and suppliers are no longer immune. It can and does pop-up anywhere and everywhere. And even though government agencies and the private sector work to control it, outbreaks of E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and other dangerous pathogens infect growing numbers of Texas consumers.
Often, food recalls are announced AFTER it’s too late for some people. In advanced stages, food poisoning can permanently disable and even kill — most commonly the very young, the elderly, expectant mothers, or those with underlying health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every year 50 million Americans (one in six) get some sort of foodborne illness. And though over 99% get no worse than a “tummyache” and maybe a low fever, 128,000 land in the hospital — and 3,000 die.
Some of the pathogens that cause food poisoning include:
The type of symptoms and the severity of pathogenic illness depends on the bacteria that caused the food poisoning. The most common symptoms begin as a generally listless feeling, followed by abdominal cramps and an urgent need to use the bathroom. When diarrhea begins, it is accompanied by nausea and fever. Vomiting coupled with diarrhea causes severe dehydration. Left untreated, the most severe food poisoning cases often result in death.
When Should a Food Poisoning Victim Consider Filing a Lawsuit?
Only 0.002% of all food poisoning victims (one in every 128,000) end up being hospitalized. Generally, symptoms don’t present before a day or two – and often as many as four or five days – after the body has ingested the pathogen. Often, any evidence that can lead to the source of the pathogen (food store or restaurant) is gone by the time you become seriously ill. This gives defendants (and their insurance companies and lawyers) the argument that you didn’t store the food properly or that some other avenue of infection is the cause. Often in foodborne illness cases, that lack of a “smoking gun” makes it especially tough to win a case or negotiate a successful, fair settlement.
But on the other hand, when many people are affected by a single outbreak of food poisoning, the cases suddenly become much stronger against the responsible party.
E. coli and Salmonella are a most common pair of culprits. Often, when a number of people are simultaneously injured by food poisoning, perhaps because they ate at the same restaurant, victims stand a much stronger chance of being compensated for all their medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other types of legal damages.
How a Food Poisoning Injury Case Works
These lawsuits are complex and highly scientific. Access to expert microbiologists and epidemiologists is vital to a food poisoning injury investigation. Lawyers who represent such innocent victims must also understand how to leverage these experts’ scientific evidence as they press their compensation demands for injured clients.
Proving a food poisoning claim requires evidence of the following:
Legal Duty – All in the “food chain,” from the growers to shippers to wholesalers and retailers, have a very high duty to keep us safe from foodborne pathogens. Most of the time they do. But when they don’t. This leads to…
Breach of Duty – Someone in that supply chain did something wrong with regard to food processing, preparation, storage, and/or handling.
Causation – Once the seller or processor is identified, one must prove negligence or a willful act by the defendant.
Legal Damages – Compensation from the guilty defendants for the contaminated food that the victim(s) ate that made them seriously ill.
What To Do as soon as You Suspect Food Poisoning at a Restaurant
Food poisoning cases are complex and science-based. Therefore, we hope you will explore your potential claim with an experienced attorney. Here are a few tips that can jump-start your claim should you choose to pursue one.
Seek medical attention immediately.
Report the restaurant to your local health department and ask that the matter be investigated.
Report the matter to the restaurant.
Save the receipt that proves you purchased the tainted food.
Try to contact other patrons through social media postings.
If you have suffered food poisoning from grocery stores or other retailers, you should save your receipt and check the news for stories of foodborne illness in your area which may apply to you.
In either event, if you believe you or a family member has suffered a serious foodborne illness in Houston or anywhere in Texas, the Terry Bryant Law Firm is at your service 24/7/365. Call (800) 444-5000 or fill out our online contact form to arrange a free consultation.