In 1992, Stella Leibeck opened a cup of McDonald’s coffee while in the parking lot, waiting for her relative. The coffee splashed into her lap, quickly causing severe burns. She eventually sued McDonald’s for her injuries. Her case was much maligned in the media and pop culture. Late night hosts joked about coffee being hot, so what did she expect?
What is often ignored is just how hot the coffee was. Leibeck suffered a major injury in a short amount of time. Her injuries required skin grafts, and she was permanently disfigured. Investigation proved that McDonald’s had been serving their coffee far hotter than the industry standard, and they had already received many complaints.
Leibeck won her lawsuit. The court ruled that McDonald’s was guilty of serving a dangerous, defective product. When you buy food, the makers of that food have a responsibility to create safe products. If they don’t, they are subject to a defective product lawsuit.
Defective Product Claims
When a manufacturer releases a dangerous product to the public, they can be held liable in a defective product lawsuit. There are three ways to accuse a company of a defective product: mislabeling, defective design, and manufacturer error.
- Mislabeling happens when a company fails to warn consumers of unexpected danger. If a certain electric product can overheat, for example, manufacturers have a responsibility to warn their customers.
- Defective design is when the product, by its very engineering, is dangerous. For instance, a bike maker could place the pedals too close to the chain, causing leg injuries.
- Manufacturer error is when something goes wrong during the building of the product. There could be defective screws, batteries, or other items that make a product dangerous.
When it comes to food, the defects will most likely lie with mislabeling or manufacturer error.
Recently, a class action lawsuit was filed against several baby food manufacturers. Testing showed that their products contained “heavy” metals that could be harmful to infants. Many of these companies insisted that their products contained no metals, and there was nothing on the packaging to indicate the presence of these toxins. These companies are allegedly guilty of mislabeling their products. If courts find them guilty of intentionally misleading consumers, they could be forced to pay heavy damages to the plaintiffs.
Manufacturer errors take place when something unexpected happens while preparing the food. Most of us have heard the urban legend about a rat floating in a Coke can. Whether that story is true or not, it is a valid example of a manufacturer error. Clearly, no one at the Coca-Cola company intends to sell their drinks with animal parts. Food that contains foreign objects or is improperly packaged is the result of manufacturer error. The same principle applies to food preparation. At a restaurant, deli, or other food market, cooks and chefs must properly store and prepare food. If they are negligent, and you are harmed by their products, you could have grounds for a lawsuit.
Suing for a Food-Related Injury
Suing a company for tainted food can be complicated, especially if the food is pre-packaged. Food manufacturers make a strong effort to distance themselves from liability. They receive this ingredient from one company and that preservative from another. When sued, they will make every effort to pass liability onto someone else. You will need a skilled lawyer to investigate manufacturing chains, pinpointing who, exactly, is responsible for your injuries.
If you are harmed by a food product, you could receive financial damages. You could be compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If you’ve been harmed by bad or tainted food, contact us today. We may be able to hold the responsible parties accountable. Our number is (607) 228-8404, and you can reach us online.