Food Contamination Cases in Georgia

You may want to be careful what you bring as a side dish to a holiday barbeque or a summer cookout because you could be bringing something that could cause serious illness or death. This past week, Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black issued a warning regarding the recall of many frozen fruits, frozen vegetables and other food products.


This recall was issued because of possible contamination by Listeria monoctogenes, commonly known as listeria. Listeria can cause dangerous or deadly infections. People with weakened immune systems are especially at risk from infection from listeria including children, pregnant women, and the elderly.  Additionally, the bacteria may cause fevers or sore muscles in those individuals who are healthy. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 500 people die from listeria related problems each year and many more suffer some form of illness or sickness. Listeria contaminations usually result from the water used to irrigate or wash foods. Unfortunately, rewashing foods that have listeria usually does little to resolve the problem.


Which Georgia Stores Were Affected?


A number of Georgia grocery stores have been impacted by this recall. Kroger, Publix and CRF Frozen foods have all reported incidents of listeria contamination. While most grocery stores quickly pull products from shelves after a recall is issued, there are times that a product can slip through the cracks and end up making a consumer seriously ill or cause death. Sometimes a recall does not happen until an individual or group of individuals become sick.


The products at these stores that were contaminated by listeria included frozen fruits and vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower, corn, blueberries, cherries, raspberries and peaches. These stores also saw listeria contaminations in sunflower seeds and nuts. The full list of foods that the Commissioner on Agriculture warned about is available here.  The Commissioner on Agriculture regularly updates their website with information about food recalls.  


What Are Your Damages in a Food Poisoning Case?

Most food poisoning cases are strict liability cases. Where a factual battle usually takes place is in the question of whether or not an individual consumed a contaminated product. Damages such as the cost of medical care and lost wages may be available in a lawsuit stemming from a sickness resulting from listeria. Punitive damages are available in food poisoning case if it can be shown that an at fault person or company demonstrated willful misconduct or a want of care that raises a presumption of active indifference. Inspection reports highlighting prior violations of food contamination can go a long way in being awarded punitive damages because these reports often show a defendant’s prior knowledge of contaminants.


History of Products Liability Law


While a discussion of product liability law may conjure up ideas of a machine not working the way it is supposed to or a defective car, Georgia’s product liability law can also apply to food products.  Generally, product liability law requires manufacturers to bear the risks and costs if an individual gets injured by a defective product. Products liability can include the way a product is design, the way it is manufactured, or the way it is distributed.


The origin of Georgia’s product liability law can be traced to contract theory that created an implied warranty in all commercial transactions. Product liability regulation began with food and drug products. The first major food and drug legislation came in 1906 with the Pure Food and Drugs Act. This Act was followed by a number of efforts to make food and medicinal products safer in the 1930s.  A Supreme Court Case in the 1970s removed the requirement of privity. Privity was the requirement that the person who was injured or became ill because of a product was the only person who could sue a manufacturer. Without the strict privity rules for example, if a friend of someone who bought a dangerous product got injured by that product, the friend would have a potential claim against the manufacturer of the product even though they were not the purchaser.


Products Liability Law in Georgia


Georgia still maintains some privity requirements for certain products liability cases, however in the majority of scenarios, the laws in Georgia match national trends in product liability law. Georgia was actually one of the first states to eliminate the privity requirement in cases that involved foods and consumable medicines. Georgia focuses its law on placing the blame on manufacturers.


Georgia’s product liability law concerning food includes prepared food at restaurants as well as packaged food that can be found in a grocery store. It is possible to have a case for contaminated food like the listeria, negligently prepared food like something being undercooked, or packaging that causes problems with the food.


Georgia Food Act


Georgia has gone a step further than some states by developing its own statute that protects individuals against contaminated and negligently prepared foods. The act, called the Georgia Food Act was passed in 1956. This legislation was intended to prevent the production, distribution or sale of food that would be dangers to consumers.  The Georgia Food act provides strict penalties for violations of the statute including both criminal and civil provisions.  The statute prevents the sale or production of any contaminated food. The statute uses the word adulterated as a catch all for things that include foreign substances in food, contamination, and products with unsafe pesticides levels.


How Can a Georgia Attorney Help With Your Illness?


If you have suffered an illness or have a loved one who has died from an illness related to contaminated food, you may have a case. There may be multiple defendants in your case, including the manufacturer of the food product and the store that sold it. However, proving a products liability or food contamination case can be difficult and the help of an experienced personal injury attorney can ensure you get the compensation you deserve for your case. Contact the Law Office of John B. Jackson today for a free consultation using the online form on our website or by phone.