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Welcome to Vegas Lawyer. This site is for people who were hurt in Nevada. Contact us for a free consultation. You may want to read the Las Vegas Personal Injury Law introduction on our home page. Also, you can get an overview of other claims like Wrongful Death, Auto Accidents, Slip & Fall, and Products Liability before you explore the Article below.

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Food Safety Actions

industry food safety actions: legal and product liability

The U.S. product liability system was designed to alleviate the economic costs that individuals incur due to defective products, including food products contaminated by microbial pathogens. Under current law, consumers who suffer a foodborne illness can seek monetary compensation for their injuries through the courts. Firms producing these defective products are liable for medical and other costs to ill consumers. Firms may incur other costs such as legal fees, higher insurance costs, and lost market share and profits. Economic theory suggests that foodborne illness litigation is a signal for firms to invest more in food safety, ultimately resulting in a lower incidence of foodborne illness and an increase in general social welfare. However, the vast majority of consumers who experience a foodborne illness do not file a legal claim, or else drop or resolve their claim prior to court proceedings, almost always out of public view. Data on legal outcomes for food poisoning lawsuits are scarce and most available data are for cases that result in jury verdicts.

Buzby and Frenzen (1999) performed a preliminary study that analyzed a sample of food poisoning jury verdicts to assess the economic incentives provided by the legal system for firms to produce safer food. More recently, Buzby et al. (2001 see below) found that juries awarded damages in a third of the 178 food poisoning lawsuits between 1988 and 1997. However, some of these consumers received substantial sums, significantly elevating the average award ($133,280) above the median ($25,560). Food poisoning litigation is also a slow process, and the average lawsuit was tried more than three years after the incident that resulted in illness.

Less than half (48 percent) of the food poisoning lawsuits involved a specific foodborne pathogen or illness. The case summaries for some lawsuits may have failed to record pathogen names, so the actual proportion of lawsuits that involved a specific pathogen might be somewhat higher. Among the lawsuits that named a pathogen, Salmonella was the most frequently cited, followed by hepatitis (any type). Most lawsuits (92 percent) identified some kind of food as the cause of illness. However, one-fourth (26 percent) of the lawsuits simply named meals such as "dinner" or food categories such as "fast food" that presumably included multiple food items, leaving the precise source of illness unclear. In contrast, two-thirds of the lawsuits (66 percent) identified a specific food item or type of food as the cause of illness. The most frequently mentioned foods were sandwiches, followed by seafood (excluding oysters) and chicken.

Buzby, et al. (2001) use food poisoning lawsuit data as a basis for asserting that confidential settlements, health insurance, and product liability insurance distort legal incentives to produce safer food. They also argue that the low monetary compensation costs of food safety lawsuits relative to their high information and transaction costs provide a weak incentive to pursue litigation.

This information came from a
USDA online article.

*** Any law, statute, regulation or other precedent is subject to change at any time ***

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