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Food Poisoning Cases and Class Action Suits

In the event the quality of a food product is compromised by faulty equipment, cross-contamination, or other circumstances, the result is often injury to a group of people who have been exposed to the tainted product. Although these types of cases may appear clear-cut, the nature of food poisoning cases makes them difficult to litigate and remedy.

A class action lawsuit is often used to pursue compensation for losses incurred as a result of illnesses related to food poisoning on a large scale. However, several things relating specifically to food poisoning cases make them difficult to pursue in a class action format. Food poisoning illness may range from very mild symptoms, to very severe. The severity of symptoms often varies significantly, based on physical health, age, environmental sensitivity and other factors. Often, the most sensitive demographics, namely the very young and very aged, encounter far more serious reactions. This variance across demographics makes a class action more difficult to pursue.

In addition to the above difficulties, courts may decline a class action lawsuit if refunds or other remedies are preferable. In 2007, an Atlanta court declined a class action lawsuit against ConAgra foods for salmonella-tainted peanut butter, citing that the refunds provided by the company were a better remedy than pursuing litigation en masse, as well as the high number of individual claims.

To have a strong claim, most of the affected parties should have similar symptoms, and the severity of symptoms should be similar as well. Solid evidence linking the plaintiffs to the tainted product is also vital to the certification process. Participants in a class action lawsuit must “opt in” to the action. While this is the best course for most, opting out allows severely affected to pursue compensation in line with the damages suffered individually. In addition it creates a more streamlined case for plaintiffs whose illness and severity of symptoms is similar.

If you have questions about your rights in a particular case, meeting with an attorney to discuss your options can clarify any concerns before opting in to a class action lawsuit. Contact Ty Wilson for an evaluation of your claim.

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