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Botulism Attorney

Botulism is a rare form of foodborne illness that can be very dangerous. Botulism can be lethal if not immediately treated.

If you or a loved one is suffering from Botulism poisoning, our Botulism lawyer can help. Contact our law firm today to explore your legal options during a free consultation.

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What is Botulism?

Botulism is a serious illness caused by a toxin produced by a type of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. It is most often spread through food but can also be transmitted through contact with contaminated soil or an open wound. Unlike many foodborne bacteria, it does not need oxygen to grow. Just a few nanograms of its toxin can cause botulism, as it is one of the most powerful known toxins. If botulism is not treated immediately, it can lead to paralysis, breathing difficulties, or death. About one microgram is lethal to humans when inhaled.

Do I Have a Botulism Lawsuit?

If your Botulism infection can be linked to a food product you consumed, that is contaminated with Clostridium botulinum toxin, then yes you can file a lawsuit. Typically, the two legal requirements for filing are that the food was contaminated, and the food caused your illness. If you are the only individual who fell ill, your case can be harder to prove. Outbreaks involving multiple cases of botulism poisoning will make it easier to trace the contamination to its source. A class action lawsuit may even commence, but in general there must be 20 victims or more.

Family members that have lost loved ones to a Botulism infection, may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Compensation can then be recovered for financial losses, and the responsible party will also be held accountable. Potential wrongful death damages include medical bills and expenses related to treating the deceased’s infection before death, lost financial support, loss of consortium or companionship, as well as funeral and burial costs.

How Can an Attorney Help with a Botulism Outbreak?

Botulism outbreak cases can be very complex, making them challenging to handle on your own. Although these claims are easier to prove when multiple people have become ill, it often involves thorough investigation, as well as highly technical and fact-specific issues. An experienced Botulism Outbreak Lawyer will dramatically increase your chances of success. They have the resources to handle every aspect of your case while you recover, including tracing your infection, determining who is liable, preserving critical evidence, and hiring qualified experts to testify. Expert testimony on the source of the outbreak, how you became ill, the severity of your illness, and how it will impact you in the future is often necessary.

Most of the defendants (at-fault parties) involved in Botulism outbreak cases have aggressive attorneys to defend against consumer lawsuits. They will attempt to shift the blame towards you and argue that their food or their negligence was not the source of the outbreak. If they are successful, it can significantly reduce or eliminate your compensation. However, with the help of an attorney, you will have a solid claim to recover the compensation you and your family need now and in the future.

What Damages Can I Recover in a Botulism Lawsuit?

Victims can potentially recover the following types of compensation in a botulism lawsuit:

Economic Damages

Compensation for actual monetary losses. For example:

  • Medical Bills: You are entitled to recover the total amount of your medical bills and related expenses incurred as a result of your illness—such as hospital stays, doctor visits, prescription medications, transportation to and from treatment, therapy, rehabilitation, etc. As well as the cost of future medical care since Botulism symptoms can linger for years.
  • Lost Wages: If you are unable to work because of your infection, you are entitled to recover your current and future lost wages.
  • Diminished Earning Capacity: If you are unable to return to work or must move to a different position or line of work due to your illness, you can recover compensation for the difference in income.

Non-Economic Damages

Compensation for subjective losses that are not linked to actual expenses. For instance:

  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the physical pain or discomfort you must endure due to botulism. In some states, there are limits on the amount you may recover for pain and suffering.
  • Disability: If untreated, Botulism infections can result in paralysis.
  • Emotional Distress: If botulism has caused emotional distress or mental anguish, such as anxiety, depression, anger, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), etc.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: If your infection prevents you from enjoying the pleasurable aspects of life, such as hobbies, exercise, or other things you used to do, you may recover damages for what is referred to as your “loss of enjoyment of life.”

Punitive Damages

Refers to a sum of money that goes above and beyond compensating you for your injuries, and is intended to punish the liable party for extremely reckless or intentional behavior.

Damage caps could affect the outcome of your case, depending on the state where you file. Each state has its own laws that govern the types and amount of damages that can be recovered in a Salmonella lawsuit. Economic damages that can be calculated, such as medical bills, are not affected by caps. However, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, or punitive damages may have limits.

How Is Botulism Contracted?

The bacteria responsible for botulism, Clostridium botulinum, is naturally found in soil and can live for long periods of time. It is when they are exposed to low levels of oxygen that they release their deadly toxin. The toxin is destroyed by heat, which is why botulism is often contracted when food is improperly processed. As a result, the most common cause of foodborne Botulism infections is contaminated homemade canned foods. However, it is possible for Botulism poisoning to be caused by canned cheese sauce, chili peppers, tomatoes, carrot juice, and even chopped garlic in oil. Studies have found that foods with low acidity are at an increased risk of Botulism contamination.

When a person swallows contaminated food that has not been properly cooked or reheated after the bacteria have produced the toxin in the food, they contract botulism. Once someone is infected with Botulism, they are not contagious. The infection is not spread from direct contact from person to person.

Botulism usually can be spread in two other ways. These include:

  • Through wounds (typically found among those who inject illicit drugs)
  • Infants may develop the toxin in their intestines before they reach 6 months of age if they swallow spores of the bacteria.

Infants typically become infected with Botulism through ingesting honey or by inhaling Botulism spores from the natural environment. For wound botulism to occur, the bacteria must get into a wound that has the right conditions to allow the bacteria to produce its toxin. Adult intestinal toxemia (also known as adult intestinal colonization) botulism is very rare but can happen if the spores of the bacteria get into an adult’s intestines, grow, and produce the toxin (similar to infant botulism).

What Are the Symptoms of Botulism Infection?

Symptoms of Botulism poisoning have a fairly quick onset. Someone who has been exposed to the bacteria will usually begin to show symptoms within 18 to 36 hours. The timeline in some individuals can extend to 6 hours and as late as 10 days after exposure.

The symptoms of Botulism poisoning include:

  • double vision
  • blurred vision
  • droopy eyelids
  • slurred speech
  • difficulty swallowing
  • dry mouth
  • muscle weakness
  • decreased mental state

Infections in infants have additional symptoms of:

  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • constipation
  • weak cry
  • poor muscle tone.

The most concerning aspect of the infection is that, if the illness is left untreated, it can develop into causing paralysis in the arms, legs, and respiratory muscles. This is why immediate medical treatment of Botulism infections is highly recommended.

Recovery from a Botulism infection can take weeks to months. Those with severe upper body paralysis, the use of a mechanical ventilator is necessary – sometimes for up to a few months. In some cases, after a full recovery, someone who had Botulism may have shortness of breath and fatigue for up to a few years after the illness.

It is important to note that Botulism is only deadly in 3-5% of cases, which has drastically been reduced from the 50 percent mortality rate of a mere 50 years ago. Despite these statistics, Botulism infections are still considered highly deadly and high risk, as the infection can cause paralysis.

Who is Most at Risk of Becoming Infected with Botulism?

While anyone can become sick with Botulism, some people are at a higher risk for a Botulism infection. For example, users of intravenous street drugs are at an increased risk of developing wound Botulism. Also, children under the age of 1 year who are fed honey are at a high risk for Botulism infection.

How Are Botulism Infections Diagnosed?

Healthcare providers are able to diagnose Botulism infections through several methods, including:

  • brain scans
  • spinal fluid testing
  • Botulinum toxin testing
  • nerve conduction testing

The reasons and necessity for such a wide range of tests is because Botulism infections present in a similar way to other diseases, including Guillain-Barré syndrome, myasthenia gravis, and strokes.

How to Report a Botulism Infection

If you are concerned about a potential botulism infection, see your doctor. Health professionals are required to immediately notify their state public health department of any cases of botulism. The state health department will contact CDC, but if there is no answer, medical providers are instructed to call CDC directly. CDC has a 24-hour telephone number at 770-488-7100.

If your doctor does not mention reporting the illness, ask them to or report it yourself by calling your local health agency. Their number can be found using our 50 State Health Department Guide. Lastly, speak to an attorney about a potential claim. They can help you decide the best course of action.

How Are Botulism Infections Treated?

Botulism infections are treated with an antitoxin that is housed and distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and through state health departments. The antitoxin can shorten and reduce the severe symptoms and prevent the progression of the illness. Those with Botulism infections typically require hospitalization to manage their severe symptoms.

Proving Liability in a Botulism Poisoning Case

A Botulism lawsuit can potentially be brought against a single liable party or multiple. Those often include the products’ manufacturers, stores or restaurants where the product was sold, or any other party involved in the chain of distribution. Typically, there are three legal theories under which liability can be proven.

  • Strict Product Liability: when businesses are held liable simply because their product was contaminated. There does not have to be evidence of negligence, only proof that the product was contaminated, and you consumed it.
  • Breach of Warranty: some cases may involve an implied warranty in the food product, since it is being sold for consumption.
  • Negligence: often used if it is not possible to pursue a claim under strict liability. Evidence must be shown that the defendant failed in their duty of care and should have taken reasonable steps to prevent contamination.

For example, the following businesses may have mishandled your food, leading to your infection:

  • Farm, orchard, or other food production facility
  • Manufacturers or producers
  • Distributors
  • Vendors
  • Grocery stores
  • Food prep workers
  • Chefs and cooks
  • Restaurant owners

Once it is determined who is liable, a product liability lawsuit can be filed against them under the theory of negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty.

Tracing Botulism to Determine Negligence

When multiple people have been infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will use a traceback process to attempt to identify the contaminated source. Your attorney will also conduct an independent investigation. Once there is a link, the next step is determining at what point the food became contaminated and which parties are responsible for it. In cases based on negligence, companies that sell food have a duty to produce or serve products safe for consumption. When a company or business breaches that duty by negligently handling, producing, or manufacturing food, they can be liable for the preventable harm they caused. If health officials find that other cases of botulism are connected to the same food product, it can be easier to prove your claim and hold a party liable.

How Much Does a Botulism Lawyer Charge?

Most Botulism Lawyers accept cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you do not have to pay for their representation upfront. You will owe legal fees only if you recover compensation, and if you do not win, you will not have to pay them for their services. Therefore, a Botulism Lawyer will assume all of the risk, giving victims a chance to retain skilled help with their claim. Your attorney will advance all expenses related to pursuing your claim, including court fees, costs of investigating, depositions, hiring expert witnesses, obtaining copies of documents, etc. Once you receive compensation, your attorney will typically take a third (33.3%) of your settlement or award, plus court costs. However, some lawyers may raise or lower their fees based on the amount of work your case involves, such as whether it settles or must be tried in court.

Consult with a Botulism Lawyer Today

Botulism contamination can cause serious injuries or even death. To learn more about your legal options, speak with a Botulism lawyer. During a free consultation, our law firm can help you explore what compensation is available to you under the law.