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Minimizing Your Liability Risk and Foodborne Illness Lawsuits.

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Presentation on theme: "Minimizing Your Liability Risk and Foodborne Illness Lawsuits."— Presentation transcript:


2 Minimizing Your Liability Risk and Foodborne Illness Lawsuits

3 Restaurant Hospitality Magazine July 2004 “We don't have to tell you that operating a restaurant is a risky proposition. But if you want to ascertain just how sensationally risky it really is, connect to the Internet, swallow hard, and type into your browser's address line.”

4 Meat Poultry Magazine – July 2003 – “Hammer Time” “Bill Marler has heard all the excuses: “Bill Marler has heard all the excuses: “It’s not fair.” “It’s not fair.” “People are just suing over a tummy ache.” “People are just suing over a tummy ache.” “We shouldn’t be blamed.” “Although somebody got sick, we did everything right.” “Why can you sue me?”

5 To Put Things in Perspective  According to the CDC, microbial pathogens in food cause an estimated 76 million cases of human illness annually in the United States  325,000 hospitalized  Cause up to 5,000 deaths

6 Marler Clark, LLP PS  Since 1993 Marler Clark has represented thousands of food illness victims in every State.  Settlements and Verdicts - nearly $300,000,000  We only bring forward a fraction of the victims who contact our offices. Some examples of your “missed opportunities:”

7 “Christening” the Carpet “I opened a box of Buffalo wings and dumped them out on a plate to be cooked in the microwave. An unusually shaped piece caught my eye and I picked it up. When I saw that the ‘piece’ had a beak, I got sick to my stomach. My lunch and diet coke came up and I managed to christen my carpet, bedding and clothing. I want them to at least pay for cleaning my carpet, etc.”

8 But, it cuts both ways - Enter the FBI

9 Strict Product Liability – or, all I ever learned in Law School  Strict Liability Are you a manufacturer? Was the product unsafe? Did product cause injury?  Negligence Are you a product seller? Did you act “reasonably”?

10 It’s called STRICT Liability for a reason   The only defense is prevention   It does not matter if you took all reasonable precautions   If you manufacture a product that makes someone sick you are going to pay   Wishful thinking does not help

11 Why Strict Liability? Is it Unfair?   It puts pressure on those (manufacturers) that most likely could correct the problem in the first place   It puts the cost of settlements and verdicts directly on to those (manufacturers) that profit from the product

12 Incentives – Litigation Can Work – A Little History Lesson  Jack in the Box  Odwalla






18 June-July, 2003 Salmonella javiana outbreak at a major-chain (Chili’s) Restaurant  305 persons confirmed ill  9 hospitalized, and 179 sought medical care  restaurant closed for 11 days  28 employees tested positive for salmonella  depressed sales in region due to bad publicity  8 months after outbreak, store closed for good

19 Health Department Report: “The investigation revealed environmental factors such as loss of hot water, loss of all water, the large number of ill employees at the facility, a general lack of handwashing and dish- machine sanitizer failure … contributed to/exacerbated the spread of salmonella javiana.”

20 Chi-Chi’s Hepatitis-A Outbreak

21 “The ice water in the bucket became, essentially, "hepatitis soup," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota who has investigated many hepatitis outbreaks.” “Government Makes It Official: Blame Scallions for Outbreak,” by Denise Grady, NEW YORK TIMES, November 22, 2003

22 Planning AGAINST Litigation – What Is Really Important   Identify Hazards - HACCP - Do you have qualified and committed people?   Insurance (have lots!)   Involve Vendors - -Do they really have a plan? - -Ever visit them? - -Indemnity Agreements - -Additional Insured

23 Planning AGAINST Litigation – Establish Relationships They are your best friends!

24 What Will a Jury Think? A Jury=12 Consumers

25 William D. Marler 6600 Columbia Center 701 Fifth Avenue Seattle, Washington 98104 Questions?

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