From romaine lettuce to ground turkey, a number of foods can
cause food-borne illnesses. While some cases of food poisoning
are fairly mild, others may result in extreme sickness and even
death. However, no matter the severity, you shouldn’t just “excuse”
a food poisoning instance.
“What’s most important, is that people who get food poisoning should know they are entitled to compensation,” states Gary Newland, an injury attorney and partner at Newland & Newland Law. “The reality is, you were poisoned. A food poisoning case is a product liability case. A restaurant or a preparer of food is held to strict liability, because this is such a serious, serious thing. The government says they are strictly liable for the damage they cause an injured person.”
First Things First
Before considering the legality of the issue, Newland advises individuals to take safety actions as soon as they suspect they might be ill. “Anyone who suspects they have food poisoning should go to a hospital immediately,” he notes. “The other important process to follow is to contact the health department. The reason it’s important to contact the health department is because you can save lives.”
Individuals who are otherwise healthy may be able to tolerate the sickness—or even fend it off—but those with compromised immune systems could be at risk for a devastating impact. These groups include children, senior citizens, and anyone with a chronic medical condition.
If the health department determines the sickness was caused by a specific product, they will ensure that product is taken off the market to prevent further exposure.
Identifying the Culprit
Unless a suspected food can be tested, there’s no definitive way to identify it as the culprit. That said, there are many cases when a suspicion can be traced back to a specific food or food establishment.
“If it was a burrito that made somebody sick from a specific burrito restaurant, then we would need to evaluate the people who got sick from that restaurant—whether or not symptoms were similar,” explains Newland. “And, if they were similar, even if there isn’t a positive test we can generally correlate it to the specific restaurant or the specific outbreak.”
Newland suggests saving the food if possible, but admits that is not always an option as many types of food poisoning don’t manifest right away. Some cases can appear as much as 72 hours later.
Catered Care to the Afflicted
As experts in this specific arena, Newland and his associates have all the tools at the ready to help the afflicted. “We build the case, every case, as if we are going to trial because generally, there is going to be an insurance company or a large corporation on the other side,” he shares. “We must also educate the insurance company or corporation that’s involved, because they are typically not fully aware of all the consequences and all the ways this can impact people’s lives. There are many different aspects to these cases and a lot of complexities which aren’t normal of most types of injury cases.”
The firm often travels to hospitals to visit with patients or patients’ family members. They also work closely with medical professionals to identify any residual effects, such as a condition called reactive arthritis which can appear months after the food poisoning incidence. “Since we do food poisoning cases all the time, we are able to ask clients about certain symptoms and conditions that perhaps other attorneys wouldn’t be aware of,” explains Newland. “Reactive arthritis is one of those conditions.”