Most people drink bottled water because they believe it is safer or healthier than the water they get from their taps. Some people may drink bottled water because they like the taste better than their local tap water. Many individuals take bottled water with them on vacation or purchase bottled water while on vacation to avoid drinking local tap water. Whatever the reason may be for drinking bottled water, you are entitled to a reasonable expectation that the bottled water is safe for consumption.
If you believe bottled water is safer than tap water, you are not alone. One recent survey by Consumer Reports found that about 40 percent of Americans believed that bottled water is safer than tap water. However, that might not always be the case.
Water Contaminated with E. Coli Made It To Store Shelves
Another article by Consumer Reports, published in November 2019 suggests that bottled water is not always safer than tap water. The article states that bottled water was contaminated and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) knew it, but the public never knew about the contamination.
According to a government report, Sweet Springs Valley Water Company in West Virginia bottled and distributed water that was from a source contaminated with E. coli. Test records reviewed by the FDA confirmed that the test samples contained E. Coli. The company did not shut down the bottling line, nor did it conduct follow-up tests.
The manager of the Sweet Springs admitted she had not considered issuing a recall. She did agree to issue the recall if the FDA advised her to do so. The recall did not occur, nor were consumers notified of the contamination.
The Problem May Be More Serious Than One Incident
A review of records and investigative reporting by Consumer Reports revealed other problems with bottled water. The FDA cited companies over a dozen times over the past decade for failing to meet federal quality standards for bottled water. Frighteningly, the FDA did not require recalls of the water, nor did the manufacturers notify consumers that the bottled water they were drinking had excessive contamination.
The FDA has set limits for the amount of contaminants that might be in bottled water. However, the FDA does not test bottled water in most cases. Since there has been a sharp decline in FDA inspections of facilities that bottle water, the agency may not even be aware that there was a problem at a facility until many months or years after the contaminated water was bottled and sold to the public.
Municipal Water Sources Have Strict Notification Requirements
Municipal water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Your municipal water supplier has strict reporting requirements. If your tap water is contaminated, the supplier must notify you according to those regulations. The supplier could have up to 30 days to notify the public for violations or contaminations that are not serious. However, if the contamination involves a serious threat, the public notice must be made within 24 hours. If you are unsure how your municipal water company notifies customers of problems with tap water, contact the customer service department for the company.
What Happens When Contaminated Water or Food Enters the Market?
If a person consumes contaminated food or beverages, that person could suffer a life-threatening condition or illness. In some cases, contaminated food can cause an outbreak of a foodborne illness.
When people get sick after consuming food, the government may issue a food recall. Food recalls occur for a variety of reasons. Common reasons that a food recall is issued include, but are not limited to:
- Contamination from E. Coli, Salmonella, or other harmful bacteria
- The food contains a foreign object, such as metal shards, plastic, or glass particles
- The label does not contain a full list of all ingredients, such as a major allergen
- There was a problem in the manufacturing process that created a hazardous or dangerous condition
- The food product fails testing requirements
If you receive a notice of a food recall, do not open the package. Follow the instructions in the recall notice to either return the item or dispose of it in a specific way. It is very important that you take steps to ensure that no one opens the package or consumes the product.
Additionally, if the packaging has been opened, you should clean all surfaces in your kitchen and any utensils and items the food may have come into contact with when you opened the package. The contaminants in the food could leave behind residue that could contain the contaminates. If you prepared the food item or had it out in your kitchen, you could still become ill if you do not clean and sanitize all surfaces that came into contact with the contaminated food.
Reporting Food Poisoning and Problems with Food
If you believe a food or beverage item caused your illness, you should report the problem to the appropriate government agency. FoodSafety.gov provides instructions for reporting problems with various foods, including contact information for the specific agencies that accept reports regarding food contaminations.
Who is Responsible for Injuries and Illnesses Caused by Food Contamination?
One or more parties may be held liable for damages caused by contaminated food. The manufacturer, distributor, seller, and other parties in the chain of production and distribution could have potential liability for contaminated or defective food products. Proving which parties are responsible and liable could be difficult.
A California defective product attorney can help. An attorney investigates how the food was contaminated and at what point in the production and distribution chain the contamination or defect occurred. Once you pinpoint the point of contamination, it becomes easier to identify the parties who might be liable for the defective product.
Proving liability for contaminated foods lies within product liability laws and negligence laws. To hold a party liable for your damages if you become ill after eating food, you must prove the legal elements required for the specific cause of action. The facts and circumstances of the case determine whether you file a defective product claim or a negligence claim.
For a product liability claim, you generally must prove:
- The product was defective;
- The party knew or should have known that the product was defective;
- The defect was a direct and proximate cause of your injury or illness; and,
- You suffered damages because of your injury or illness.
If your cause of action is based on negligence, the legal elements are similar:
- The party owed a duty of care;
- The party breached the duty of care;
- The breach of care caused your injury or illness; and,
- You suffered damages because of your injury or illness.
The above explanation of the legal elements is a very brief, simple description of what you must prove to hold a party liable for contaminated food or defective products. You need a California personal injury lawyer to review your case to determine your legal rights, the legal causes of action that might apply to your case, and your options for recovering compensation for your injuries.
What Should You Do If a Defective Food Product Injures You?
If you believe a defective food product or contaminated food product caused you to become ill, there are several steps to take to protect yourself. Those steps include:
- Seek medical attention. As soon as possible, go to the doctor for medical treatment. Explain that you believe you might be ill because of a contaminated food product or defective food product. If you are ill because of foodborne contamination, the doctor will report the incident to the authorities to determine if any other cases could indicate a foodborne illness outbreak.
- Secure any remaining food. Package the food in a secure container clearly marked as dangerous and do not eat. Freeze the remaining portion of the food. The CDC or other government agency may want to test the food if other people become ill.
- Write down as much as you remember about what you ate. If you do not have the food that caused your illness, write down as much as you remember about the food you consumed in the past few days. Include the places you ate and what you ate during that time.
- Document your illness and losses. Keep copies of all medical records and other information regarding your illness. Make notes about your recovery, including activities you cannot perform. Keep copies of bills, invoices, and receipts for any financial expenses related to the illness and your recovery. Include dates that you miss work because of the foodborne illness.
- File a report with the appropriate government agency. Follow the instructions at FoodSafety.gov to report the contaminated food or defective food product to the correct government agency. Make notes about filing the report and keep a copy of any documents or information you submit with your report.
- Continue your treatment plan with your physician. Stopping treatment before your doctor releases you could be harmful to your health. It could also hurt your personal injury case. The defense may claim that your injuries and damages are your fault because you failed to seek medical treatment for your injuries or illness.
- Contact a California defective product attorney for help. As soon as possible, contact our California defective product lawyers. We can help you take the next steps to pursue a personal injury claim against the party or parties responsible for your illness and damages.
How Much is a Food Poisoning Claim Worth?
The amount of your food poisoning claim or defective product claim depends on the circumstances and facts of your case. Numerous factors are considered when calculating the value of a food contamination claim. Factors that might impact the value of your personal injury claim include, but may not be limited to:
- The specific allegations of fault and liability;
- The parties responsible for causing the injury;
- Your injuries;
- The severity of your injuries;
- The amount of your financial losses;
- The state laws capping non-economic damages, if those laws apply in the jurisdiction the case is heard;
- Whether you sustained any permanent disabilities or impairments; and,
- Whether liability is disputed.
Our California personal injury lawyers analyze each factor that impacts the value of your food contamination claim. We may consult with medical experts and financial experts to maximize the value of your claim, especially if you may be entitled to future damages because of a permanent impairment.
The types of damages included in a defective product claim include, but are not limited to:
- Medical expenses, including doctor’s bills hospitalizations, emergency room visits, ambulance costs, medications, medical supplies, and therapy
- The cost of personal care and assistance with household chores
- Loss of income, including benefits, bonuses, commissions, wages, and salaries
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Permanent impairments and disabilities
- Loss of enjoyment of life or diminished quality of life
Our legal team works with you to carefully document each expense and loss you incur because of your injury or illness. We also gather medical evidence and financial evidence as proof of your damages.
Documenting damages in a personal injury case is crucial for receiving full compensation for injuries, losses, and damages caused by contaminated food or a defective product.
Contact The Thompson Law Office For a Free Case Review
If contaminated food or a defective food product caused your illness, we want to help. We want to help you discover why you became ill and who is responsible for allowing contaminated food to enter the market.
Please contact our office if you have questions or you want to schedule a free consultation with one of our California personal injury lawyers. You may contact our office online or by calling 1-650-513-6111 for more information.