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Can You Sue Over a Salad Poisoning Outbreak?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Health officials have identified bagged salad mix as the source of an outbreak of Cyclospora -- a rare parasite that causes a lengthy gastrointestinal illness.

The contaminated salad outbreak has sickened more than 170 people in Iowa and Nebraska, reports CNN. About 200 others in 13 additional states have also become ill from Cyclospora, but it's not clear whether those cases were part of the same outbreak, according to the CDC.

It's also not clear exactly which products or brands may be the source of the outbreaks in Iowa and Nebraska. But if bagged salad is indeed to blame, can the victims sue over a salad poisoning outbreak?

The answer depends on many factors. Food poisoning lawsuits often fall under the category of defective product liability claims.

The most common legal theories in these cases include:

  • Strict product liability,
  • Negligence, and
  • Breach of warranties.

For victims in Nebraska and Iowa, one potential legal claim would be that they were sold defective salad mixes that poisoned them with Cyclospora, which caused them to suffer severe flu-like symptoms.

Since Cyclospora infection is typically caused by consuming food contaminated with feces, and the prepackaged salad mixes were sold as "prewashed and ready to eat," it seems proving negligence wouldn't be too difficult.

How Can You Prove It?

To win a food poisoning lawsuit, you must prove the food you ate was contaminated. For victims in Nebraska and Iowa, this step may be simple, once health officials have identified the prepackaged salad mixes they believe were the source of the outbreak.

You must also prove that foodborne contamination got you sick. A doctor's diagnosis -- confirmed by stool samples or other tests -- can be helpful in proving that foodborne contamination made you sick.

Is It Too Late?

Another important consideration is to file your lawsuit within your state's time limit for bringing product liability claims. Your state may have a statute of limitations, which is triggered by an injury; or a statute of repose, which is triggered by the completion of an act.

For example, in Iowa, an action must be brought within two years of the date on which the injury occurred. Nebraska, on the other hand, has enacted a 10-year statute of repose, which begins to run from the date when a product is first sold.

Need More Help?

If you want to pursue a food poisoning lawsuit, you may want to consult with a products liability attorney in your area to learn what your options are.

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