In light of the ongoing media attention being given to the salmonella outbreak regarding tainted peanut butter, I have compiled a short list of simple errors to avoid to help those who have been affected by this to assure that their legal claims – if legitimate – are preserved, rather than subject to dismissal before they even get out of the starting gate.


1)         Make Sure You Get The Right Medical Testing that Confirms Food Poisoning – as Opposed to Some Other Malady

Stated plainly, even if you have all of the usual food poisoning symptoms, your lawsuit will be doomed to fail unless you have objective, scientific proof to buttress your claim. One of the primary – and best – means to prove that you have indeed suffered food poisoning is a stool sample; others include blood and urine tests.  As you should probably surmise, your medical experts (assuming they are honest) will be unable to state with any degree of confidence that you in fact suffered from food poisoning without this proof to back them up; they will be forced by the defense to acknowledge that you could have just as easily suffered from a stomach or other virus, for example.

2)          Make Sure You Get The Right Medical Testing that Confirms the Food Was Tainted

As distasteful as this may sound, if you believe you are the victim of food poisoning, you should save and preserve whatever tiny amount is left from the food that you believe caused your illness, and have it tested by an appropriate laboratory. The reason for doing so is dual, and is not limited to litigation; first, it should help identify the specific food-borne illness you are dealing with (and, consequently, assist your medical provider(s) in prescribing the appropriate treatment to assure your speedy recovery); second, having the tainted food tested will dramatically undercut the manufacturer’s and distributors’ likely arguments that your sickness was caused by a food product from an unrelated third party

3)        Make Sure You Find Out Whether Anyone Who Shared that Food Also Contracted Food Poisoning

Restaurants, food manufacturers and distributors often defend food poisoning lawsuits by denying that they received any other complaints that consumers became ill after eating their food, reasoning since nobody else became ill from the food, the problem must be idiosyncratic to you. As you probably know from experience, however, most people who get sick after a meal aren’t exactly talking or bragging about it, and they’re certainly not calling the restaurant from which they bought the food to complain. To the contrary, they are probably shying away from friends and family because they are embarrassed about having just vomited all over the bedroom floor.

But before you slink back to your bed in embarrassment, consider this: If others who shared your meal also felt sick within 2-10 hours after finishing the meal, and experienced symptoms such as chills, nausea, diarrhea or fever, the likelihood that your food was tainted – as opposed to an individualized viral reaction – is greatly increased.

Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer