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Restaurant Liability for Foreign Objects Found in Food

American restaurant goers and consumers are frequently injured by foreign objects in their food. Examples of foreign objects recently found in food reportedly include glass, gravel, rocks, metal, jewelry, wood, plastic, cigarettes, gum, feces, hair, blood, human fingers, fingernails, insects, rodents, bones and other animal parts. In certain cases, a food manufacturer, restaurant or preparer can be held liable for injuries caused by foreign objects. Any victim should consult with the attorneys at NRS Injury Law to inquire about their legal options.

Foreign objects in a food products pose several health concerns. First, while being chewed or swallowed, hard or sharp foreign objects can cause injury to someone’s teeth, jaw, tongue, or throat. After being swallowed, the foreign object can also injure your stomach, intestines or rectum. The objects also pose a choking hazard. The object can become lodged in your throat and result in brain injury or even death. In rare cases, surgery is required to remove the foreign object. Finally, individuals who have eaten food contaminated with foreign objects often suffer food poisoning. Non-food objects often cause food poisoning for because they can be the source of pathogenic bacteria and impede or interfere with proper cooking of the food.

Persons injured by foreign objects in food may be entitled to assert legal claims and seek damages from any entity whose oversight allowed the foreign object to be undetected prior to sale or service of food. In some circumstances, the food’s seller can be held liable for the consumer’s damages. Depending upon the facts of the case, tort claims against the manufacturer, preparer or seller of the food product. If there is evidence of an intentional alteration of the food with a foreign object, then the victim may also be able to assert additional claims.

Not all food related injuries involve objects completely foreign to the food. Injuries can occur when consumers eat parts of the food including bones, seeds, shells, or stems which are naturally occurring and normally associated with the particular type of meat, seafood, produce or other food. Historically, this distinction between “foreign” and “natural” objects was very important. Indeed, Ohio has recently adopted what is known as the “consumer reasonable expectations” test. Under this standard, whether the injurious object was foreign or natural is considered a relevant fact, but it is not the dispositive issue. Rather, the focus is upon whether the non-food object was something the consumer could reasonably expect to possibly encounter and for which caution was needed during consumption of the food. For example, a consumer arguably would not reasonably expect to bite into or swallow a chicken bone while eating canned chicken soup or a product labeled as “boneless chicken.” On the other hand, a restaurant patron arguably should anticipate that he might encounter bones if he orders a T-bone steak. Under the “consumer reasonable expectations” test, the consumer of the soup or boneless chicken might be able to recover damages whereas the restaurant patron would likely have a more difficult time holding anyone liable for his injuries. Neither case would fail, though, because the bone is considered to be a “natural” substance normally associated with the food. Instead, the outcome of each case will depend upon various facts which impact what the consumer could or should have expected when he purchased or ordered the particular food in question.

Related Blog: Food Poisoning Victims May Be Entitled to Substantial Compensation

If you are injured by a foreign food object there are several helpful steps to follow. First, if you are at a restaurant, keep the food exactly as it existed when the object was discovered and immediately alert the waiter, waitress, or manager. If possible, request that a written report be prepared. Keep all evidence and do not allow it to be taken from you by the restaurant. You should also ensure that you get a receipt or written record of the contaminated food product. You should also immediately seek medical attention if the foreign object is swallowed, causes injury, or leads to food poisoning. Finally, it is very important to keep all evidence including any of the foreign object and all packaging materials which contained the food. Any perishable food evidence should be kept in a refrigerator or freezer. If the evidence cannot be stored or could change over time, it should be photographed and/or videotaped as soon as possible. Also, any visible injuries should be photographed as well.

Once you receive medical attention, you should notify the food company or restaurant which manufactured or prepared the food about the incident. It is also helpful to notify the Ohio Department of Health if the food or beverage was prepared or served at or by a restaurant, bakery, catering company or similar establishment.

It is highly recommended that if you are injured by a foreign object in your food that you contact the experienced lawyers at NRS Injury Law to discuss the facts. Do not sign any papers or give a written or recorded statement until you have consulted with an attorney. Form more information, contact the Cleveland personal injury attorneys at NRS by filling out our contact form or call NRS Injury Law at (855)GOT-HURT.

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