Food poisoning is not only a health code violation and concern, but it can cause serious injuries. Those who are victims of foodborne illnesses can have a multitude of medical costs, lost wages, and in some cases, death can occur. If you have lost a loved one due to suspected food poisoning, or the investigation into an illness finds that a specific food item caused sickness and death, then you may have a claim against the restaurant, grower, or even the distributor.
Foodborne illnesses are commonly associated with some sort of harm. But, fatal food poisoning is rare. In these cases, the victims often have compromised immune systems – usually found among the elderly or even small children. Regardless of age, foodborne illnesses are preventable and often the result of negligence, which means that family members may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is filed by the relatives of an individual who was harmed by someone’s negligence and is now deceased. In Kentucky, “surviving family members” are limited to children and spouses, as well as surviving parents, if the child was a minor. These family members can sue for damages, including lost wages, financial support, the funeral and burial costs, and any medical expenses associated with the illness and death.
Five Things to Know About Filing a Wrongful Death Claim for Food Poisoning
Suspecting food poisoning is not enough; instead, you will have the burden of proof. As the plaintiff, you must prove that the illness caused your loved one’s death, and that there is someone responsible for the foodborne illness. The following are five aspects of food poisoning claims that you should know first before deciding to get compensation from a distributor, grocery store, or restaurant:
- The pathogen must be determined. The specific pathogen must be identified, which requires medical professionals to run several tests. A physician will test for the common causes of food illnesses, such as E. coli, Hepatitis A, Norovirus, Listeria, and Salmonella.
- PFGE testing is required, too. A pathogenic bacterium will have fingerprints determined through pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). This test is critical for matching bacteria with one another and combining results into a single outbreak incident.
- You do not have to know what food made your loved one ill. While it helps to know where your loved one became ill, you don’t necessarily have to know which food from the facility or store caused the sickness. This is especially true when more than your loved one became ill after eating from the same establishment.
- You can also sue for a sick employee instead of the food. Sometimes it is not the food, but the person preparing the food, that causes the foodborne illness. If your loved one’s illness occurred due to direct contact from a worker who prepared the food, then that employee and the employer could be held liable for your loved one’s death. For example, if a food handler in a restaurant failed to wash his or her hands after using the bathroom and transferred harmful bacteria to the food, a claim could be made for compensation.
- If the company or food establishment was grossly negligent, you could also have punitive damages. Punitive damages are rare, but in the instance where an establishment blatantly violated food safety regulations, you could be eligible for punitive damages in your wrongful death claim.
Speak with a Wrongful Death Attorney
If you lost a loved one due to a foodborne illness, you will need to speak with an attorney. Contact Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC today regarding the loss of your loved one. We offer free consultations, so schedule yours today by calling us or filling out our online contact form with your questions.