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Victims who have suffered severe E. Coli infections caused by contaminated food or petting zoos, have the right to file an E. Coli lawsuit. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with E. Coli, let us review your case and discuss your legal options in a free consultation. Call (833) 330-3663 or fill out contact form below.
If you have been diagnosed with E. Coli, filing a lawsuit gives you the opportunity to recover compensation for your losses, from the parties that are liable. The first step is gathering sufficient evidence to hold the responsible party accountable. That will involve proving:
Figuring out the source of the E. Coli bacteria can be difficult, since symptoms may take up to one week to appear after exposure. Hiring a food safety lawyer immediately after seeing your health care provider is crucial, as a prompt investigation of the suspected food or location (e.g. restaurant, petting zoo) will be conducted. If multiple people contracted E. Coli, discovering how the infection occurred is much easier. Especially if a government agency is documenting the contamination and with the use of microbiological and epidemiological evidence (“disease detectives”), confirms there is an outbreak. A class action lawsuit may even be an option if there are a large number of victims.
Working with a lawyer to build a strong case on your behalf may sound expensive, but certain lawyers will take on your case and cover any upfront costs. This arrangement is known as a contingency fee agreement. Once a fair settlement can be reached with either the liable party’s insurance company or by a jury verdict, only then will they collect legal fees.
In an E. Coli lawsuit, you may have the ability to recover compensatory damages, which are intended to compensate you for your losses. These include both, “economic damages” and “non-economic” damages.
This type of damages refers to any tangible expenses related to being ill. Those typically include:
Non-economic damages cannot be calculated, as they are subjective; though they are typically much greater than the economic losses. Examples of this type of damages are:
When the liable party’s actions were extremely reckless, exemplary (punitive) damages may be awarded as a form of punishment for the defendant. In addition to punishment, these damages are designed to prevent similar types of behavior from occurring by others in the future. The amount of exemplary damages that can be awarded in the state of Texas is capped, as stated in Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 41.008(b). The figure cannot exceed the larger of $200,000 or two times the amount of economic damages plus an equal amount of non-economic damages up to a maximum of $750,000.
If a loved one died as a result of contracting E. Coli, a surviving family member can bring a wrongful death suit and obtain medical expenses, lost financial support and services, funeral and burial expenses, and more.
The exact worth of your case, unfortunately, cannot be calculated. This is due to the fact that each case varies in their circumstances, and the estimated value will hinge on specific factors, including the severity of your medical complications. However, a lawyer who has experience with E. Coli lawsuits will be able to give you an idea of its worth. The factors that will be considered, include:
E. Coli lawsuits fall under product liability law, which holds manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and others who make products available to the public responsible for any harm their products cause. Therefore, typically, any entities in the chain of distribution of contaminated food can be held liable in an E. Coli lawsuit. Those parties can include:
Once the source of the contamination is discovered, all parties involved after the fact can be named as a defendant. The most crucial task is proving they are at fault for your foodborne illness.
These parties can be held strictly liable in most states. This means that you do not have to provide proof of negligence or their failure to take reasonable care. Since consumers have the right to expect that petting zoos and food products being sold are safe, they must only demonstrate the following:
If many other individuals also became ill from the same product or petting zoo, your case can be easier to prove. Your attorney will help you determine who is liable.
Most outbreaks in the U.S. have been associated with raw or undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk, unpasteurized juice and leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, etc.). Therefore, the most common defendants in E. Coli lawsuits are parties involved in the distribution of contaminated food (e.g., manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, etc.).
Due to the high costs and risks of litigation, most E. Coli lawsuits settle before reaching the courtroom. Reasons for settlement often include avoiding the high costs of litigation, a weakened position due to the results of discovery, or simply making the matter go away. Reasons why your case might go to court are if the defendant is unwilling to settle for fair compensation, liability is disputed, or the defendant believes they will win in court.
How long an E. Coli lawsuit takes to resolve is unique in each case based on various factors such as its complexity, whether fault is disputed, and the severity of your illness. In the best-case scenario, the at-fault party’s insurance company will settle your claim for fair compensation within 30 days. However, if your case must go to trial, you join a class-action lawsuit or is categorized as a mass tort, it can take years. For example, class-action lawsuits, on average, take two to three years to resolve.
An E. Coli lawsuit consists of the following seven stages:
Your E. Coli lawyer will conduct an investigation to build your case and collect evidence. That may involve, for example, tracking down the source of your infection, having tests completed on the contaminated food or pets if possible, speaking to eyewitnesses, obtaining documentation such as receipts of purchase, copies of medical records, pay stubs to show lost income, receipts for any infection-related expenses, hiring experts if necessary, and more. The amount of time an investigation takes can depend on the complexity of the case.
Your attorney must file a complaint detailing your side of the case that must be served to the defendant, who then has a chance to answer. This paperwork that must be filed is known as pleadings. When many plaintiffs (victims) pursue a case against the same defendants(s), they will typically be categorized as a mass tort. In a mass tort, the cases are consolidated when there are common issues of fact and law so that litigation is handled more efficiently, but each case is decided separately. Whereas, if you join a class-action lawsuit, the cases are grouped into a single lawsuit.
The discovery phase will then begin, which often takes up the largest portion of a lawsuit time, and usually involves the following:
Negotiations will continue, and mediation may be attempted to resolve the case before trial and most cases end with a settlement.
If your claim heads to the courtroom, the trial itself can vary in length. Some only take days, whereas others go on for weeks or even months.
If your case is settled, most insurance companies will send payment within 30 days of you signing a release of liability. On the other hand, if you receive a favorable trial verdict, it can take months or years before you receive your jury award, depending on if the defendant files an appeal.
If you or the defense would like to dispute the case’s outcome at trial, appeals can be filed to have a higher court review the judge’s decision. The appellate process can be lengthy and postpone payment if you were awarded compensation.
An E. Coli outbreak originating from contaminated beef patties killed four children and made over 700 people sick in the Northwest United States. Individual and class-action settlements totaled more than $50 million.
Close to 19 million pounds of ground beef produced at the ConAgra Beef Co. in Greeley, Colorado, was recalled. At least 46 people became ill, and one person died. ConAgra settled numerous claims, but the figures remained confidential.
At least 199 cases of E. coli infection occurred in 26 states; three people died, and about 31 developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a dangerous complication that can lead to kidney failure. The source of the outbreak was traced to fresh, bagged spinach from the California-based Natural Selection Foods company. Settlements were reached with the companies that grew, processed, and marketed the contaminated spinach, but the terms were not disclosed.
Taco Bell recalled green onions from Taco Bell restaurants nationwide in response to tests suggesting they were the cause of the E. coli outbreak. As a result, 71 people in five states became ill. Victims received out-of-court confidential settlements, which were believed to have ranged from $25,000 to millions in compensation.
Close to 100 cases were settled for confidential amounts with Chipotle after an outbreak where 55 people in 11 states were infected, and five people from three other states were infected with a different strain.
Nearly a dozen children became ill, one of whom died, after visiting the San Diego County Fair in California in 2019. The exact source was not discovered, as the petting zoo, pony rides, and cattle areas were all suspected, but no positive results came back.
167 people in 27 states were infected by romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California. Out of those, 85 people were hospitalized, and 15 patients developed hemolytic uremic syndrome – a type of kidney failure. Confidential settlements were reached with the victims who filed suit.
The Lange Law Firm, PLLC is currently assisting victims sickened by E. Coli contamination and we are ready to help you too. To learn more about your legal rights and options in an E. Coli lawsuit, please schedule a free consultation by calling our food safety law firm at (833) 330-3663 or reach us through our online contact form.