What are my son’s rights if a teacher at his highschool sells food without foodhandling license and he received a foodborne illness?

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What are my son’s rights if a teacher at his highschool sells food without foodhandling license and he received a foodborne illness?

He suffered bloody stool and excessive vomiting which caused him to miss school and his job. He has video recorded his teacher touching money and contacting the food without sanitation. How much is his case valued? What is my first steps?

Asked on March 7, 2014 under Personal Injury, California

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

What are Contaminated Foods?

Contaminated foods are the source of food poisoning, or the general term for health problems caused by something a person eats.  These problems can arise from bacteria, viruses, or toxins that contaminate foods.  Some examples are Salmonella, E. Coli, Toxoplama Gondii, and the Norwalk Virus.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are six to thirty-three million cases of food poisoning in the United States each year.

Who can be Liable for Contaminated Foods?

Because many steps are involved in getting a particular food from the farm to your plate, many different actors can face liability if the food injuries someone.  To complicate things, some actors can be liable under different legal theories including negligence, strict liability, and defective product liability.  In general, the actors who can be liable for contaminated foods are:

  • Farmers, under negligence or defective product liability,
  • Growers, under negligence or defective product liability,
  • Shippers, under negligence or defective product liability,
  • Packagers, under negligence or defective product liability, or
  • Sellers or distributors, under strict liability or breach of warranty.

What is Needed To Prove Liability for Contaminated Foods?

To be successful in a lawsuit against one of the above actors, you must at least prove:

  1. The actor grew or shipped the contaminated food,
  2. You consumed the contaminated food,
  3. You suffered some symptoms or illness after consuming the contaminated food,
  4. Your symptoms or illness was diagnosed by a doctor as being caused by consuming the contaminated food,
  5. The time you felt your symptoms or illness is consistent with the time of consuming the contaminated food, and
  6. The actor caused the contamination or failed to use reasonable care to prevent it.

In addition to the minimum elements that must be proved to be successful in a lawsuit for contaminated food, it is also beneficial if an injured person can prove:

  1. Their illness was diagnosed by a doctor as being caused by a particular bacteria, virus, or toxin,
  2. The contaminated food was found to harbor such bacteria, virus, or toxin, and
  3. The symptoms or illness is consistent with consuming the particular bacteria, virus, or toxin.

What is Recoverable in a Lawsuit for Contaminated Foods?

In most cases, recovery for a lawsuit for contaminated foods includes:

  • Compensatory damages, for thing like economic losses or mental and physical pain and suffering,
  • Medical expenses, both past and sometimes future, and
  • Punitive damages if applicable.

Are There any Defenses?

In a lawsuit against an actor for contaminated foods, several defenses may be applicable.  They include:

  • The actor exercised all reasonable care in growing, packaging, shipping, or selling the food,
  • The injured person's symptom or illness was not caused by consuming the food,
  • Someone else introduced a contaminating agent into the food, or
  • The injured person caused their own symptom or illness by their own negligence in failing to exercise ordinary care.  An example would be fulling cooking meat or following directions on food packaging.

Do I Need an Attorney to Handle my Contaminated Food Liability Issue?

If you have been injured from consuming contaminated food, or you are being sued for contaminated food, it is recommended that you contact a personal injury or product liability attorney.  They will be able to explain the relevant issues and help to defend your rights. An attorney in ypur locality can be found on attorneypages.com to assist in valuing your son's case.

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

When your son is released by the doctor, obtain his medical bills, medical reports and documentation of wage loss.

His personal injury claim filed with the insurance carrier for the school district should include those items.  Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement.  The medical reports will document tha nature and extent of his illness/injury and will be used to determine compensation for pain and suffering, which is an amount in addition to the medical bills.  Compensation for wage loss is straight reimbursement.  Since your son is a minor, you will need to be appointed guardian ad litem to handle the matter for him.

If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from the school district's insurance carrier, reject the settlement offers and file a lawsuit for negligence against the school district and the teacher.  The school district is liable for the negligence of its employee (the teacher) which occurred in the course and scope of employment.

It is not possible to place a dollar value on the case at this point without knowing the amount of the medical bills.  There isn't any mathematical formula for determining compensation for pain and suffering.  It just depends on the information in the medical reports and the facts of the case.  For example, if your son has fully recovered without any residual problems, his case is worth less than someone who did not fully recover and has residual complaints.

If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from the school district's insurance carrier, reject the settlement offers and file the lawsuit on behalf of your son  for negligence against the school district and teacher.

If the case is settled with the school district's insurance carrier, NO lawsuit is filed.  If the case is NOT settled with the school district's insurance carrier, the lawsuit must be filed prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or your son will lose his rights forever in the matter.  Since your son is a minor, he cannot file a lawsuit himself and that is why you will need to be appointed guardian ad litem to file a lawsuit on his behalf.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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