The recent warning from the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) to stay away from romaine lettuce made 2018 a record-breaking year—and not the kind that the food industry wants to hear about. The romaine lettuce warning was the 21st such admonition this year, an all-time record.
The Food & Drug Administration doesn’t believe the new record is the result of food being worse, but of improved technology that can better link outbreaks of sickness across the country. That, in turn, can make winning a food poisoning lawsuit a little easier, although significant challenges still remain for plaintiffs.
In most states, the law governing food poisoning liability is straightforward. You simply have to prove that the food you ate was contaminated, that you became sick because of it and you suffered damages (lost wages, psychological harm, etc) because of the illness.
This is what is called “strict product liability” and it works to the advantage of the plaintiff. It means you don’t need to prove negligence at any step in the distribution chain. You only need to establish your own illness and its consequences.
But that can be difficult to establish in the real world. Your first challenge will be clearly pinpointing the food you ate that caused your illness. There’s often a time gap between consumption and sickness and that makes it more difficult to know where to start.
After you know the cause, then visit your doctor. You’ll need is a stool sample that prove the same pathogens (e coli, salmonella, etc) that caused you to become sick are also in the contaminated food. If you can make this linkage, you’ve got a case .
The process becomes easier if your case is part of an overall outbreak being tracked by the CDC. In these cases, there may be a class-action lawsuit, where you can join forces with a large number of plaintiffs. A class action is usually is run by experienced lawyers and you can share upfront legal costs with other plaintiffs. Class-action maximizes your chances of winning a food poisoning lawsuit.