Food-Related Illness Hits Georgia – What Are Your Legal Rights?

Another food-related illness has reached Georgia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed that the E. coli/romaine lettuce outbreak that has been affecting other parts of the United States has finally reached Georgia. On April 26, the Georgia Department of Public Health announced that an Atlanta teen received treatment for E. coli.  That teen is now one of 84 Americans feeling sick from the bacteria traced to romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma area of Arizona.

The outbreak has been traced to 19 states, but no deaths have been reported. Any romaine bought at a store or eaten at a restaurant could cause sickness if it comes from this area. CDC advises people not to eat romaine if they are not sure where it came from. The Atlanta teen had recently consumed romaine at several area restaurants.

Outbreaks of food-related illnesses are not rare. Many people affected by these outbreaks may wonder if they have a case against the company that caused the illness. Pinpointing the food that made you sick can sometimes be hard. Nonetheless, if a government agency has linked the illness to a particular food, having a claim may be easier.

Liabilities in Food-Related Illness Cases

Food-related illnesses typically fall under one of the following categories, the idea being that you have purchased a particular food that is defective and been injured by getting an illness from it.

  • Strict Liability for Products: Several states have strict liability laws for products, which means that you no longer have the burden to prove that the supplier or manufacturer of the contaminated food was not sufficient in distributing or making the product. Instead, you just have to prove that the food you ate had contamination and caused your illness.
  • Breach of Warranties: Most states have certain minimum standards called implied warranties and the contamination of the food you ate may constitute a violation of those warranties.
  • Negligence: In cases in which strict liability is not an option for your claim, you may be able to argue that the manufacturer or producer in your case acted with negligence in supplying or manufacturing a contaminated product that resulted in your illness. To prove this, you must be able to show that they were not reasonably careful in distributing or making the product that caused your sickness.

Who is Liable for My Illness?

In any defective product cases, you will want to include any parties that participated in the chain of distribution. Specifically, this will include whoever grew or produced the food, anyone involved in packaging, the retailer or restaurant, etc.

How do I Prove My Case?

Proving the exact cause of a food-related illness is not always the easiest task. It can be hard to trace which exact food you consumed made you ill. The difficulty grows when a few days separate the time you ate the food until the time your symptoms appeared. To prove your claim, you must prove two things:

  • The food you consumed was contaminated: You must pinpoint which food made you sick. In the case of the romaine/E. coli outbreak this is much easier because there is a known outbreak. Proving a link between an illness and food is much easier if a governmental agency like the CDC has already linked an illness outbreak to one food source. Scientific testing can also determine which food might have been the contaminated product that caused your illness.
  • The contamination made you sick: You will also have to prove that your sickness was caused by the contaminated food. The best way to do this is to provide a stool sample and have it tested for dangerous bacteria. If your food source also contains that bacteria, it will greatly strengthen your claim.

Why do I Need an Attorney?

Generally, in Georgia you have two years from the date your illness occurred to file a claim. Given the many situations concerning food-related illness claims, it is best to have an attorney assist you with your case. An experienced attorney like those at Lankford & Moore Law can provide you with the representation you need to get the compensation you deserve.

I realized the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder. The lesson was so indelibly burnt into me that a large part of my time during the twenty years of my practice as a lawyer was occupied in bringing about private compromises of hundreds of cases. I lost nothing thereby — not even money, certainly not my soul.

Mahatma Gandhi

Lankford & Moore Law in Downtown Lawrenceville

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