Last month, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an interesting and important opinion in a Georgia product liability case that changed the way lower courts will analyze food-poisoning cases in the future. Although the appeals court allowed the case to proceed to trial, the evidence connecting the caterer to the poisoning is weak and will likely fail at trial.
WHAT MAKES A WORKABLE FOOD POISONING CASE?
You start with the eternal question of “so what?” If the harm was just vomiting and a trip to the ER, ask for the ER bill to be paid and move on. Yes they may be responsible, but life goes on and they certainly did not intend it.
If you have a hospital admission or anything more serious, then there is a point to moving to the analysis of what caused it.
In order to carry a strong case, the hospital needs to take a stool sample to determine the kind of food poisoning and the particular strain. That data can then be compared to the source food to conclusively show what caused it. Food poisoning usually take 2.5-4 hours to set in, so if it happens quickly, it’s likely not from that meal.
The Facts of the Case
The case dealt with the burden a Georgia food poisoning plaintiff has to meet in a defense motion for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court concluded that Georgia food poisoning plaintiffs should be held to no higher a standard than any other plaintiff who brings a case based on a theory of negligence.
The plaintiffs were a man and woman who became violently ill after consuming food that had been prepared by the defendant caterer at a wedding rehearsal dinner.
The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, challenging the plaintiffs’ case on the basis of causation. Essentially, the caterer claimed that the plaintiffs were “unable to show that their alleged food poisoning was proximately caused by defendant.” In support of this argument, the caterer pointed to the fact that the plaintiffs ate food from numerous other places in between the time they consumed the defendant’s food and the time they became ill. Additionally, the defendant argued the fact that none of the defendant’s employees, the event staff employees, or the other rehearsal dinner guests became ill after eating the food.