This week, families around Northern Illinois and across the country gathered to celebrate Independence Day. For many people, such celebrations include backyard cookouts with massive spreads of delicious food of all types.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to attend a Fourth of July cookout and then come home feeling a bit unwell. Before long, you might feel quite ill and have symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. You might even recognize the situation as attributable to something you ate, but the term “food poisoning” might feel like a stretch. However, the reality is that if something you ate made you sick and food allergies are not to blame, there is a good chance that you are, in fact, suffering from food poisoning.
Potential Liability for the Host
Over the last few weeks, posts on this blog have offered some summer cookout safety tips so that those who host backyard meals can help prevent their guests from getting sick. However, foodborne illnesses are still possible at summer cookouts. The first potential source of liability for summer cookout food poisoning is the person who hosts the get-together.
In Illinois, a person can be held liable for someone else’s illness if the illness was caused by the person’s negligence. (A person can also be held liable for intentionally making another sick, but no reasonable cookout host would purposefully do such a thing.) Illinois courts define negligence as the failure to act in a way that a reasonably careful person should act. However, the specific way that a reasonably careful person should act is open to interpretation by the judge or jury in a civil action.
Generally, if the host of the cookout tried to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, he or she was being reasonably careful. Likewise, if he or she tried to avoid cross-contamination and other food safety dangers, the host is not likely to be held liable for a guest contracting a foodborne illness. On the other hand, if the host continually allowed cooked chicken and raw chicken to stay in contact, for example, and a guest fell ill with salmonella, the host might be found at least partially liable.
In a large number of food poisoning cases, the primary culprit is contaminated food. Unfortunately, this means that multiple people tend to get sick at the same time before anyone makes the connection to the food in question. For example, if a particular batch of romaine lettuce was contaminated at the processing plant but marked as “ready-to-eat,” any guest who eats that lettuce as part of a salad at a cookout could be in danger. A situation such as this would cause liability to fall on the food producer or distributor instead of the cookout host.
With this in mind, it is important to let your host know that you became ill after the cookout. If more than one person provides this information to the host, he or she might be able to help track down the contaminated product. It is also a good idea to contact a foodborne illness lawyer who can provide additional direction about what to do next.
Contact a DuPage County Foodborne Illness Lawyer
For more information about taking action after a bout with food poisoning, contact Newland & Newland, LLP for a free consultation. Call 312-981-0409 to discuss your case with an experienced Illinois food poisoning attorney today. We will work hard to hold the appropriate party accountable for the injuries you have suffered.