Fred Pritzker, food safety legal pioneer and founder of the Pritzker Hageman law firm made sure his team of food safety lawyers would always be here for people with questions and concerns about food safety and about how wrongdoers can be held accountable for illnesses and deaths caused by adulterated food products.
Foodborne Illness is a Major Problem in the U.S.
Let’s start with the basics. Foodborne illness is a major problem in the United States. According to the CDC, each year 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. The people most likely to be harmed by foodborne illness are the most vulnerable among us: young children, older people and those with weakened immune systems.
Most Outbreaks are Preventable
The sad thing is that most foodborne illness outbreaks are preventable. I’ve been a lawyer for over forty years. I and the lawyers in my firm are involved in virtually every major foodborne illness outbreak in the United States. In every single one of those cases, there was a clear violation of food safety laws, regulations or accepted food safety practices. In other words, these outbreaks are not unavoidable “accidents” or acts of God; they are the result of companies and individuals not following rules designed to protect people like you and me.
Foodborne Illness Causes Severe Illness and Can be Fatal
And those failures have devastating consequences including brain damage, destruction of the gut, kidney damage and a host of other life-long, critical losses that one would not wish on their worst enemies. In this case linked to Salmonella in chicken salad, we are representing people who are still hospitalized with critical injuries from which they will never completely recover.
Science is Used to Prove That a Person’s Illness Was Caused by a Specific Food Product
People ask how we know if a person’s foodborne illness was actually caused by a particular food product. The short answer: science. Microbiology, including whole genome sequencing and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, allows us to compare the genetic finger print of samples from sick people, food products and company facilities. Epidemiology allows us to match those results in almost real time and determine common sources for the foods consumed and places where the food was produced.
Why a Food Safety Lawsuit?
Many folks have strong opinions about lawsuits on behalf of people seriously harmed by adulterated food products. That’s particularly true if they hold the food producer or retailer in high esteem. Let me address some of those concerns.
First, before suing a food producer for food poisoning, we carefully evaluate the facts of the case. We do not bring a claim on behalf of our clients unless there is clear proof that a food product is unsafe and defective; that it actually caused our client’s illness; and that real harm occurred as a result of that illness (including substantial medical bills, hospitalization, permanent injury or death).
Another concern is why we sue the retailer as well as other parties in the chain of production and distribution. There are many reasons for doing so most all of which are unique to the facts of a particular case. The reasons include state laws that require “joinder” of essential parties, reprocessing and re-packaging that may spread and proliferate foodborne pathogens, knowledge of and failure to prevent “upstream” and “downstream” contamination and a host of other issues that are carefully evaluated before suit is commenced.
Our Lawyers Work Hard to Hold Corporate Wrongdoers Accountable
Some people also believe that lawyers are greedy, traffic in human misery and continue to bring frivolous and unwarranted lawsuits. No doubt some lawyers are like that just as some doctors are quacks, some business people are criminals and some politicians are corrupt. But most aren’t and neither are we. Our firm adheres to the highest ethical standards and we are consistently rated among the very best law firms in the country.
All of our cases are handled on a contingent fee basis. They involve thousands of hours of hard work and the advancement of large sums of money necessary to hire competent experts, conduct scientific research and do all the other things necessary to produce good results for our clients. And since we don’t get paid for our time or our out-of-pocket expenses unless we win, we do not take frivolous cases or sue people and companies who are not responsible for the harms and losses suffered by our clients.
We think it’s only fair that wrongdoers should be held accountable for the harms and losses they cause. Think of it this way: through absolutely no fault of your own, you or a loved one is in great pain, hospitalized or maybe even fighting for life and facing an uncertain future with large medical bills. Is it fair or just for those people to suffer in silence and be uncompensated for their losses?