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Chicago Attorney Discusses Tainted Product Lawsuits

Sabra Hummus recallsIn November, Sabra Hummus released a statement that they would recall a majority of their products due to possible listeria contamination. This forced grocery stores around the country to remove the items from their shelves, forced customers to discard their products, and it raised questions about liability if someone were to contract Listeriosis.

What is Listeriosis?

If food or water is contaminated with listeria, it can lead to a deadly bacterial infection known as Listeriosis. This is a highly dangerous condition, especially for pregnant women, infants, adults over the age of 60, and those with a weak immune system. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1,600 people become ill with Listeriosis each year.

Listeria comes from a group of seven bacteria, but only three in that category lead to disease. The listeria monocytogenes is the type of bacteria that typically causes Listeriosis in humans. It is found in nature, especially in vegetation, water, soil, and gastrointestinal tracts of livestock.

A person typically contracts Listeriosis from contaminated foods that are not cooked. These can include unprocessed deli meats, unpasteurized cheese and milk products, raw vegetables, soft cheeses, uncooked hotdogs, and soil that has been contaminated. Listeria can even survive in the freezer.

Symptoms of Listeria

If people eat a contaminated prepared food, they could have symptoms of Listeriosis within a few days and up to two months. Because it can take so long for symptoms to manifest, those who contract Listeriosis do not typically know what food caused it.

Symptoms of Listeriosis include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Muscles aches
  • Headache
  • Stiff muscles or muscle spasms
  • Convulsions

For most who have contracted listeria, they will not know. Plenty of individuals will suffer from mild symptoms, such as vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea. They may not have a fever, and because the symptoms show up so long after the food is ingested, most will not know that it was food poisoning.

The symptoms of Listeriosis are also easily confused with the symptoms of the stomach flu and other conditions. Physicians may diagnose a person with the stomach flu instead of Listeriosis. Therefore, the rates of Listeriosis in the country are most likely underreported, and those who suffer serious illnesses may never be able to take legal action against the company that infected them, because they are unaware that they have a foodborne illness.

Could You Sue for a Listeriosis Infection?

If food that contained listeria infects you, and you know which product made you sick, you do have a potential claim against that manufacturer. You must first speak with a product liability attorney in Chicago to determine the validity of your claim.

Manufacturers of consumer food products are required to ensure that they are safe for consumption; therefore, anyone who becomes ill due to contamination has a potential product liability claim against that manufacturer.

Filing a Listeria Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Newborns, pregnant women, and those with a weakened immune system are especially vulnerable to the illness. Because it can attack the central nervous system, one could suffer from extreme symptoms; when the body is not strong enough to fight the illness, fatal complications could result.

There are deaths associated with Listeriosis outbreaks. Some outbreaks in the past that led to fatalities include:

  • Dole Salad Outbreak – Sickened 12 individuals and killed one.
  • Soft Cheese Outbreak – Sickened people in nine different states and killed one.
  • Blue Bell Ice Cream Outbreak – Sickened people across multiple states and killed three.

These wrongful deaths are preventable, even though the company failed to take precaution and prevent a foodborne illness from contaminating their food products. The family that has lost a loved one to food poisoning has the right to sue for that wrongful death.

Listeria can lead to a deadly disease known as meningitis, which is a deadly infection of the brain’s lining. Even with treatment, the outlook for such a disease is grim. Listeriosis is fatal in approximately 25 percent of cases, and with proper sanitization and testing, these deaths are preventable.

A wrongful death suit could be filed against a food manufacturer, grocery store, food distributor, restaurant, retailer, school, hotel, or caterer.

Contracting Listeria Meningitis

A known complication from Listeriosis is the issue of listeria meningitis. While not always fatal, those who contract this illness can still receive compensation. The costs to treat, and the pain and suffering the patient must endure, is compensable.

The reason Listeriosis causes meningitis is because the bacteria pathogens are extremely small. This allows them to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and lead to an infection within the meninges, which are the membranes that surround the spinal cord and brain.

Listeria meningitis presents differently than traditional meningitis, which is why it is often misdiagnosed at first. The bacteria with listeria meningitis attacks the cerebral cortex, which creates additional complications. That is why listeria meningitis is often fatal.

There are known complications of listeria meningitis, which include:

  • Brain stem damage
  • Brain abscesses
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Seizures
  • Consciousness issues and impairments
  • Spinal cord injury

Suing for a Miscarriage After Contracting Listeriosis

It is not uncommon for a pregnant woman to suffer from a miscarriage after contracting Listeriosis. This is because this bacterium attacks the fetus and placenta. Even if the baby survives, the baby will be born with a severe illness, which often leads to death.

Pregnant women are more at risk not because of their compromised immunity, but because of how the bacteria attacks their body. The CDC reports that pregnant women are 20 times more likely to contract Listeriosis after eating contaminated food than a healthy adult.

When listeria enters the placenta, which is protected from the body’s immune system, it then pours out rapidly amongst the woman’s other organs. The illnesses they cause often affect the fetus and cause miscarriage or stillbirth. The miscarriage is the body’s way of dispelling the illness.

A pregnant woman who loses a baby due to a Listeriosis infection could file a lawsuit for her medical costs, loss of the pregnancy, pain, suffering, and emotional trauma. She must first identify the food source that sickened her, but then she may have a suit against the restaurant, grocery store, distributor, or multiple parties liable for the contamination.

Five Reasons to Consult an Attorney Now Rather than Later

While you are recovering from your illness, or if you are helping a loved one cope with the loss of a pregnancy, the last thing on your mind is to consult with a personal injury attorney. However, it is in your best interest to start the process early.

There are five critical reasons to speak with an attorney as soon as possible, including:

  1. Gain early access to corporate records. When a lawsuit is filed, your attorney can gain access to all public health records and corporate records from the company suspected for contamination. That helps gather necessary evidence to win the claim.
  2. Early access to insurance funding. Once an outbreak is identified, a company will turn to their insurer to set aside funds for the lawsuit. This funding comes from their liability coverage, but there is limited funding. Therefore, those who file their suit early will have access to these funds before a company potentially goes bankrupt.
  3. Lawsuits send messages to the food industry about safety over profit. Companies that cause foodborne illness outbreaks are not charged in criminal courts. To send a message to them that food safety matters more than profits, you must file a civil lawsuit. A lawsuit sends a clear message that the company responsible must reorganize priorities and focus on the health and safety of the product more than earning revenue.
  4. You could be the voice for others. Others may not be aware of a foodborne illness contaminating their food. By filing a lawsuit early, you are advocating for others as well as yourself. You will bring awareness to the public about the potential illness out there, you will likely be interviewed by media outlets, and you could become the voice for those who did not know there were options out there for them.
  5. A lawsuit through an attorney leads to faster settlements. Your medical costs could be compounding. You may have missed countless hours at work. Your family is suffering, and you need compensation. When you file a personal injury lawsuit through an attorney, you are more likely to settle and receive your compensation faster than filing a grievance with the company or waiting on the insurance company to act.

Bottom line: The sooner you act, the sooner you could see results and make a difference.

Contact Malman Law to Explore Your Options

If you contracted Listeriosis or another foodborne illness related to contaminated food products, you may have a claim against the manufacturer or retailer that sold you the product. Contact Malman Law today to explore your options toll-free or request more information online. We are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and you do not pay for our services unless we win your case.

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