Court Discusses Caterer’s Liability in Recent Food-Poisoning Case

When a customer consumes food prepared by a restaurant or caterer, the customer is placing a significant amount of trust in those who are preparing the food. However, in many cases each year, diners are made ill by improperly stored or prepared food. These Florida food poisoning cases are brought under the theory of product liability.

In a recent state appellate opinion, a court discussed a caterer’s potential liability in a case brought by a couple who claimed that they suffered food poisoning after consuming food prepared by the defendant caterer. Specifically, the case required the court to determine the burden a food-poisoning plaintiff has to meet to survive a defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were wedding guests who were made ill after consuming food at the wedding rehearsal dinner. The plaintiffs filed a product liability lawsuit against the catering company, seeking compensation for the injuries they sustained. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the food was “defective, pathogen-contaminated, undercooked, and negligently prepared.”

The catering company moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs were unable to prove that it was their food that made the plaintiffs sick. In support of its motion, the catering company noted that other guests and employees ate the same food as the plaintiffs and did not become ill. The caterer also argued that the plaintiffs had consumed other food and drink that was not prepared by their company.

The plaintiff responded to the caterer’s motion by presenting evidence that between 16-20 other wedding guests became ill after eating at the rehearsal dinner, and several of those guests did not consume food at the wedding the following evening. It was also shown that one of the plaintiffs and one of the other wedding guests both tested positive for salmonella shortly after the rehearsal dinner.

The trial court determined that the plaintiffs could not “exclude every other reasonable hypothesis regarding the cause of their illness,” and granted summary judgment in favor of the caterer. The plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, the case was reversed in favor of the plaintiffs. In so holding, the court explained that the lower court erred when it applied a standard that was more burdensome than necessary to the plaintiff’s case. The court held that a plaintiff bringing a case under the theory of negligence does not need to exclude every other possible explanation for their injuries other than the defendant’s negligence. Instead, a plaintiff must only show that there is a triable issue of fact.

Here, the court held that the plaintiff presented circumstantial evidence that the caterer’s food made them ill. The court agreed that the caterer’s evidence, which was also circumstantial, conflicted with the plaintiff’s evidence, but determined that this merely created a triable issue of fact regarding causation.

Have You Suffered from Food Poisoning After Eating Contaminated Food?

If you or a loved one has recently suffered through a bout of food poisoning after consuming food that you believe was contaminated or otherwise unsafe to consume, you should reach out to the dedicated South Florida injury attorneys at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we have extensive experience representing injury victims and their family members in all types of Florida personal injury and wrongful death claims, including Florida food poisoning cases and other product liability claims. To learn more about how we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Claims Against Government Employees and Agencies Must Comply with the Requirements of the FTCA, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published August 31, 2018.

Florida Court Dismisses Slip-and-Fall Case, Finding the Hazard Causing the Plaintiff’s Fall Was “Open and Obvious”, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 13, 2018.


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