Frequently Asked Questions about Salmonella Cases and Lawsuits

How Would an Investigation Work in My Case?

The steps in a food poisoning investigation are often similar. The following is an example of an outbreak that occurred in Oregon.   The facts of that case are as follows:

  • In early in the month, several reports of food poisoning came in to health officials from treating physicians in 3 closely grouped counties.
  • Noting the geographical grouping, officials obtained stool samples from the patients in the group.
  • County laboratory scientists used the PFGE process on these samples to isolate a bacterial strain common to the cases, revealing that the genetic fingerprint of S. Typhimurium was common to the three-county group of cases.
  • The results of the PFGE pattern confirmed that all the patients had contracted the same strain of salmonella, indicating a single source for the outbreak.
  • During interviews with each of the patients that contracted salmonella, investigators learned what and where those persons ate during the incubation period before they fell ill. 
  • Comparing interview results, investigators spotted a pattern in the data:  those who contracted S. Typhimurium in the three-county area had all eaten food prepared by the same local restaurant.
  • Only days after the individuals had fallen ill, health inspectors visited the local restaurant and inspected the premises. The inspectors found violations of several federal regulations designed to keep restaurant patrons safe from infectious bacteria. 
  • Officials concluded that the restaurant was the source of the three-county outbreak of poisonings by S. Typhimurium.

Is a Host of a Private Party Liable for Serving a Defective Food Product?

Only businesses – those parties engaged in the business of selling food products – are subject to the legal argument called strict-liability, defective-product.  A host of a private party can, however, be held liable for simple negligence if he or she causes a guest to become infected with salmonella.  In that case, responsibility for damages would fall on the host’s home-insurance company.

How Much Time Do I Have to Pursue My Case?

A statute of limitations prevents bringing a salmonella case to court any later than 2 years after the date you were injured.  This time will go fast, consumed by investigations, interviews, and exhaustive gathering of your medical records, a notably time-consuming process.  If an illness with salmonellosis is recent, there is no big rush, but it is advisable to act somewhat promptly in order that you and your Oregon salmonella attorney can muster as strong a case as is possible.  If any appreciable time has passed since your illness, it is advisable to act speedily.  Our experienced Oregon salmonella attorneys are eager to have an opening conversation free of charge with you on your case.

Could I Be At Fault In My Illness?

If, for example, your family eats eggs that you did not cook thoroughly, or you use raw eggs, and then you fall ill with salmonellosis, a defense attorney can argue that you as well as the supplier of the eggs are at fault.  He can attempt to split the blame, so that less blame falls on his client.  This is the argument of contributory negligence – that you contributed some, to your own illness.  While these arguments exist, the fact remains that any food contaminated with salmonella is considered to be defective.

How Much is My Food Poisoning Case Worth?

While Salmonella lawsuits are quite common in the U.S., the only way to evaluate what a case is worth is through an exhaustive investigation into the liability of the case and the harm caused.  Each case is different and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

More U.S. jury verdicts are returned in salmonellosis cases than for any other food-borne illness.  This information can sometimes be useful to assess the value of comparable cases.  Because the illness caused is severe, jury awards can sometimes be quite high for salmonellosis plaintiffs. Because hospitalization frequently occurs for a salmonellosis patient, jury awards can sometimes reflect the length of a required hospital stay.  Another factor juries consider in gauging amount of damages deserved is whether long-term, chronic effects are traced to a poisoning.

What are some Federal Guidelines for Food Manufacturers and Processors around Salmonella?

During World War II, the federal government crafted a safety tool to greatly limit the production of dud artillery shells, a grave problem.  Later, this system was adapted to the goal of greatly limiting the production of unsafe foodstuffs.  This system of controls is called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points.  Rather than finished product inspection, HACCP involves the prevention of hazards – by designing measurements to reduce risks to a safe level.  Meat HACCP systems are mandated by federal law and are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, while the Food and Drug Administration regulates mandated HAACPs for seafood and juice.  In other food industries, HACCP use is voluntary.  The HACCP system can be used at all stages of a food chain.

Food producers must allow for federal inspection of the records of HACCP.  An experienced Oregon salmonella attorney knows how to make use of such records in establishing liability in a case of salmonella poisoning.

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