Dunn, Carpio & Turner

Food Poisoning & Foreign Object in Food

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What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning is the catchall phrase for when you get sick from eating food that is contaminated with a pathogens that cause a violent physical sickness to the eater. These pathogens can be found in food that has been improperly handled, prepared or stored.


What is a foreign object in food?

A foreign object in food is when food contains some physical object that is hazardous that should not be there and does not naturally occur in the food. For example, a bug or metal nail would be a foreign object in a piece of chicken, whereas a chicken bone would not.

Some common foreign objects include:

  1. Glass in food
  2. Plastic in food
  3. Metal in food
  4. Fingernail or hair in food
  5. Bug in food
  6. Rock in food
  7. Plastic bag in food
  8. Broken plate in food
  9. Wires in food
  10. Pills in food

Causes of food poisoning

There are many pathogens and molds that can cause food poisoning. Below are some of the most common pathogens that cause food poisoning:

Campylobacter jejuni, also known as the stomach flu or stomach bug, is the most common form of bacterial contamination. It is associated with beef and chicken because it is found naturally in the digestive tracts of both.

Salmonella is another very common form of poisoning. Salmonella can be caused by beef or poultry, as well as milk and eggs from contaminated animals.

Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli, is a well-known and more dangerous form of poisoning. It is most commonly associated with ground beef and ground pork.


Why foreign objects end up in food

Foreign objects wind up in food for many different reasons. For instance, food purchased from a grocery store may have a dangerous object in it from a problem that occurred somewhere in the manufacturing process, like an insect or rodent falling in or a piece of equipment breaking off and ending up inside the packaged food. More commonly, food purchased at restaurants becomes compromised somewhere in the preparation process, whether it be by something from the line cook’s setup falling into the food or a glass or plate breaking somewhere in the kitchen and flying debris ending up in the food.


Symptoms of food poisoning

Vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pains

The sudden sickness from food poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pains. These unpleasant and painful symptoms are injuries, for which you are entitled to compensation for being made to experience.

Fainting and resulting injuries

Getting sick can cause lightheadedness and dizziness that can result in fainting and falling over. Fainting can cause serious injury, especially if you hit your head on the hard ground or an object on the way down.

Death

Food poisoning can be deadly, so it is important to seek medical treatment if you suspect that you have contracted something from what you have eaten.


Injuries from foreign object in food

Foreign objects in your food can cause a variety of injuries, mainly depending on what the object is. Just seeing a shard of glass in your food can cause mental and emotional distress, in effect causing a form of posttraumatic stress. If you bite down on a hard or sharp foreign object, then you can break your tooth or cut the inside of your mouth. If you unknowingly attempt to swallow a foreign object you can choke or cut your throat. If you actually swallow a foreign object it can cause a lot of damage along your digestive tract.


Entitlements under the law

Doctor visits paid for

Food poisoning or foreign object in food can necessitate one or more trips to the hospital or doctor, as well as lab testing and follow-up visits with your general practitioner. Whether you are insured or uninsured, you will undoubtedly end up being responsible for at least some, if not all, of these costs. You are entitled to be reimbursed for any amount your paid, or are expected to pay, towards your medical bills.

Time from work paid for

Food poisoning or a foreign object in food injury can also put you out of work for days or weeks. You are entitled to the money would have earned, but for your injury.

Compensation for horrible experience

You are entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries due to the pain you experience both in incurring the injury and in recovering from it. You are also entitled to money compensation for the mental component of having suffered the injury, which can be as simple yet appreciable as becoming a little paranoid about the contents of your food. Once you have bitten down on a shard of glass, that memory does not readily leave you as you takes bites of food even months or years after.


Food poisoning and foreign object in food questions

What do I do if I think I have gotten food poisoning?

It is obvious to you when you have food poisoning: you get inexplicably and violently sick several hours after eating. However, proving that you got food poisoning and where it came from can be more difficult, especially because the insurance companies that defend food poisoning cases will do and say anything to get out of compensating you.

Two areas particularly vulnerable to these evasive tactics are whether or not you actually had food poisoning (as opposed to another illness) and whether or not the source of the tainted food was the restaurant you believe it to be.

Regarding the first issue, when you go to the hospital exhibiting symptoms of food poisoning, you often receive a symptomatic diagnosis. However, to prove to the insurance company that you have food poisoning, conclusive medical tests can be a great help, both from a health/safety and compensation standpoint. Therefore, you should request that these tests be performed. A failure to obtain conclusive test results showing food poisoning does not mean that you cannot recover, though. It just puts more emphasis on the importance of the second issue.

Regarding the second issue, it is very difficult to obtain direct evidence that the tainted source was the establishment that you think it was. This is because the food that caused the illness is gone: the restaurant gave it to you, and you ate it! However, you can establish that the restaurant that served the tainted source has sanitary conditions below what are acceptable, and thus could have caused tainted food to be served. A simple phone call to the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health at (888) 700-9995 will cause an inspector to be sent to look for ANY type of health code violation. You can then obtain a copy of the resulting inspection report. If the inspector finds any health code violation that could have contributed to the risk of injury, the credibility of your claim will receive a boost.

What do I do if I suffer a foreign object in food injury?

If you are injured or suspect that you have ingested something potentially hazardous, seek medical attention immediately and give a full report of what you think happened to the doctor. If, once you have dealt with the emergency medical aspect, you are interested in making a legal claim, then you need to start thinking about preserving evidence.

1. Keep the foreign object!

The first thing you will need is the foreign object itself. Often times, restaurants or companies will try to get the object from you, claiming they are going to send it to headquarters or the like. While this may be true, they are also depriving you of your evidence, your proof that there even was a foreign object. Without proof, the value of your case will take a big hit or be gone entirely.

2. Keep your receipt

You also want to be able to prove where the object came from/whose food it was. For this, you want to keep your receipt of purchase.

3. Make a report

Finally, you want to make a report immediately with the establishment to prove that the timing was proper and give them a chance to inspect the situation immediately. Make sure to request a copy of the report at the time or you may not be able to get it without a lawsuit.

4. Take pictures

A good principle to follow is to take pictures of everything: the foreign object in the food, the foreign object by itself, your receipt, the report and whatever else seems pertinent at the time. All this evidence will strengthen your claim and thus add value to it.

What if I am uninsured?

If you do not have health insurance, there are health care providers who will treat you now for no out-of-pocket expense. These providers will then be paid later by the at-fault party at the resolution of your case.

When should I make my claim?

California law allows for 2 years to try to understand the full scope of your case and settle it before requiring you to file a lawsuit. That means that you are able to get the treatment you need in order to understand the full extent of your losses for the 2 years following the date of injury. However, if your case cannot be settled or fully quantified by that point, you will need to file a lawsuit to protect your rights.


Many laws govern food poisoning and foreign object cases

Food poisoning

Restaurants and grocery stores are required to process, store and handle food in a certain manner to assure that the food remains safe to eat and contaminant-free. When a restaurant, grocery store or supplier fails to meet the standards set by California law, they are responsible for any foreseeable harm resulting to their customers.

Foreign object in food

A foreign object ending up in food and causing injury is governed by an area of law called Strict Products Liability. Strict liability means that you do not need to prove negligence or how the foreign object ended up in the food, just that it was there and a reasonable consumer would not have anticipated finding it there. Under strict products liability, you also do not need to prove at which stage the foreign object entered the food: each manufacturer and distributor, up to and including the retailer, is liable. These laws are meant to favor consumers and pressure manufacturers, distributors and retailers into expending proper resources to keep consumers safe. By giving strong and favorable recourse abilities, the goal is to prevent injuries from happening in the first place.


Why choose us?

Since 1977, our firm has been helping those injured by food poisoning or a foreign object in food recover full and fair compensation.

We work on a contingency basis, so there is no out-of-pocket expense to you for our fee, and we only get paid if we recover for you.

Our office is committed to providing you the best experience and best results possible.

We will happily speak to you about your case so that you can get a free consultation in order to understand your rights and options, as well as the strength of your case – call us today!


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