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Food Poisoning and Negligent Contamination Injury Cases

Foodborne illness (sometimes called “foodborne disease,” “foodborne infection,” or “food poisoning) is a common, costly—yet preventable—public health problem. Each year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or drinks. Many different disease-causing microbes, or pathogens, can contaminate foods, so there are many different foodborne infections. In addition, poisonous chemicals, or other harmful substances can cause foodborne diseases if they are present in food.  Different diseases have different symptoms, so there is no one “syndrome” that is foodborne illness. However, the microbe or toxin responsible enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract, and so nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea are common symptoms in many foodborne diseases. The CDC estimates that each year roughly 48 million people gets sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.

What if you get food poisoning from a restaurant?

If you get food poisoning from a restaurant, you may have an insurance claim or cause for legal action. As with each legal case, whether or not you have a valid claim depends on the circumstances. Contact a lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer Memphis, TN trusts and they’ll be happy to discuss your case with you.

As a general matter, a restaurant has the duty to use reasonable care to serve food that is not contaminated. The restaurant is not an insurer of the safety and quality of the food served, but the restaurant must use reasonable and ordinary care in the selection, preparation, and serving of the food. The food poisoning victim has the burden of proving that the restaurant failed to use reasonable and ordinary care in the selection, preparation, and serving of the food and that the food caused an injury.

Causation of Food Poisoning

At least one court has stated the following concerning establishing causation:

. . . public policy mandates a workable and rational standard in food poisoning cases. Medical testimony, by itself, can likely never pin-point causation absent a testing of all possible food sources. If the contaminated food has been fully consumed, however, there is simply nothing to test. Moreover, if symptoms do not manifest within a day or two, it is highly improbable that all possible sources of contamination will be available for testing. Servers of contaminated foods should not be able to circumvent liability merely because the contaminated product they served was either fully consumed or its remains were disposed of at the end of the meal. We, therefore, hold that causation may be established by either expert testimony or through a combination of both expert and lay testimony.

McCarley v. W. Quality Food Serv., 960 S.W.2d 585, 589 (Tenn. 1998).  In the McCarley case, the food poisoning victim, who had eaten some chicken purchased from the Defendant Restaurant, presented expert testimony that his illness was caused by the presence of campylobacter (and organism that can contaminate food during processing) and that campylobacter remains viable in foods that have been improperly prepared. As to causation, the expert stated that the chicken could have been the source of the campylobacter and that it was at the top of the list of possible sources. The victim’s wife testified that the chicken had an unusual odor, looked strange, and “didn’t taste right.” The Tennessee Supreme Court found that the testimony of the expert and the victim’s wife, when combined, supported an inference that the chicken was the source of the campylobacter causing the victim’s sickness and that the jury should resolve the issues of the case.

If you are the victim of food poisoning and you think the person or restaurant serving you didn’t use reasonable care, call a trusted attorney today.

Wiseman Bray PLLCThanks to our friends and contributors at Wiseman Bray PLLC who have significant experience fighting for personal injury victims in Tennessee.

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Steve Harrelson
Steve Harrelson

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