Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

E. Coli and Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Researchers at Consumer Reports think they've discovered the source of a deadly E. coli outbreak in the U.S. and Canada last week: romaine lettuce. The outbreak began in November 2017 and has sickened dozens, hospitalized five, and killed at least two people.

While the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention was careful not to link the outbreak to a specific source before further inquiry, the Public Health Agency of Canada was confident in identifying romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak. So why are people getting sick, what should they do, and can you file a wrongful death lawsuit for E. coli poisoning?

Ongoing E. Coli Investigation

"Because we have not identified a source of the infections, CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food," the CDC said on its website. "This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available."

Consumer Reports, on the other hand, wanted more serious warnings issued to consumers. "Even though we can't say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S.," says director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports James Rogers, Ph.D., "a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is almost always consumed raw."

The CDC did confirm that the strain of E. coli detected in the U.S. is "a virtual genetic match" with the one that has caused illnesses in Canada, and produces a toxin that can lead to serious illness, kidney failure, and death.

Fatal Food

Wrongful death claims can be filed by the close relatives of a person who has died due to the negligence of another. Surviving family members can sue for damages, including lost wages, loss of consortium or companionship, and medical bills and funeral expenses. State statutes governing who may file wrongful death claims, time limits, caps on damages, and other rights and responsibilities can vary from state to state.

And while the vast majority of food poisoning cases result in some level of discomfort rather than death, some 30,000 people a year die from food poisoning. The majority of victims are very young children, the elderly, or are otherwise ill -- those most susceptible to extreme reactions due to food poisoning.

If you've lost a family member to food poisoning, talk to a local personal injury attorney.

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