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Suit Filed in Taco Bell Salmonella Outbreak

By Laura Strachan, Esq. | Last updated on

No quiero Taco Bell. In a salmonella outbreak that has affected 155 people in 21 states, fast-food chain Taco Bell is now seeing the legal consequences of the salmonella outbreak that was first reported in May. Two different strains of Salmonella (Salmonella Hartford and Salmonella Baildon) caused patrons to experience fever, vomiting, and dehydration.

The suit was filed in Kentucky against Taco Bell parent company Yum! Brand by local resident Jo Ann Smith. After ordering two of Taco Bell's famous beef tacos, Smith began to experience symptoms that ultimately landed her in the emergency room. Smith's attorney, Bill Marler told Food Safety News, "My hope is that these two experiences will lead Yum! Brands to step up quickly to address the needs of customers who have been infected with salmonella." Marler also brought a salmonella suits against Taco Bell in 2000 for salmonella traced to green onions used in many of their menu items, and again in 2006 for an E. coli outbreak linked to lettuce.

Although news of a salmonella outbreak is usually accompanied by a temporary decrease in patronage at a restaurant, there are also legal consequences associated with food poisoning. The Taco Bell case at hand, and most others, falls under a products liability theory of recovery -- a theory analogous to when a customer sues a manufacturer for a defective product.

In a food poisoning lawsuit, victims typically seek medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and in some situations also seek compensation related to emotional distress. In order to successfully pursue a food poisoning lawsuit, connecting the sickness to the source is essential. In this case, because of the wide-spread nature of the outbreak spanning over a period of months, it is much easier to connect a chain like Taco Bell, than it would be had this just been a single restaurant with fewer incidents. Moral of the story: serving up cheap food fixes can become costly when health and safety standards are ignored.

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