Food poisoning is a major problem in Las Vegas and across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Health, there are approximately 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses each year in the United States, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Many of these cases involve improperly served food at restaurants and other eateries.
Las Vegas hotels, casinos, and restaurants have a legal duty to make sure the food served on their premises is safe for consumption. When a guest gets food poisoning due to unsanitary practices or other forms of negligence, they may have grounds for a personal injury claim against the establishment. To learn more about your legal rights after getting food poisoning, contact the experienced food poison lawyers of the Cottle Firm at 702-722-6111.
What Are the Main Causes of Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning happens when germs and other harmful items contaminate a food or beverage before it is consumed. These contaminants are known as microbes and fall into three categories: bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Other contaminants, such as toxic chemicals, can also cause food poisoning. Microbes can contaminate food at any point from the time it is grown until the time it is prepared.
Bacteria are tiny lifeforms capable of causing food poisoning when they enter the body via contaminated food or beverages. The growing temperature of bacteria is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. To mitigate the risk of bacterial food poisoning, Las Vegas restaurants should keep food below 40 degrees in refrigerators or freezers. Thorough cooking is also essential for food safety, as it helps kill bacteria.
Various strains of bacteria can cause food poisoning, including:
- Specific variants of Salmonella, which are especially common in foodborne illness cases
- Certain strains of Clostridium, such as the widespread C. perfringens and the rare but highly dangerous C. botulinum, which causes botulism
- Certain forms of Campylobacter, especially C. jejuni
- Staphylococcus aureus, colloquially known as Staph
- Escherichia coli, commonly abbreviated as E. coli
- Certain types of Vibrio
- Listeria monocytogenes, also referred to as simply Listeria
Parasites are microscopic organisms that live on or within a host organism, siphoning food from that organism. They can cause food poisoning by infiltrating the body through food or water and then attaching themselves to the digestive tract.
Parasite infections are relatively rare in the United States, but they do occasionally cause food poisoning. Specific parasites that can cause food poisoning include:
- Cryptosporidium causes an illness called cryptosporidiosis (aka crypto)
- Toxoplasma gondii causes an illness called toxoplasmosis
Viruses infect healthy cells in the body and often spread from person to person. A virus can cause food poisoning when water comes into contact with stools of people infected with it. This contaminated water can sometimes come into contact with foods, which then pick up the virus. Viruses can also contaminate food when someone carrying the virus prepares or handles the food. The most common viral causes of food poisoning are hepatitis A and norovirus.
Las Vegas Food Safety Regulations
All Las Vegas restaurants, cafes, eateries, and other food-serving businesses are required to follow the regulations set forth by the Southern Nevada Health District. These food safety rules are designed to reduce cases of food poisoning. When a business violates these rules and a guest gets food poisoning, the guest could have grounds for a lawsuit based on negligence.
Below is a summary of the Southern Nevada Health District’s hygiene requirements for food-serving businesses:
- Eating, drinking, or using tobacco and vaping products should only occur in specific areas where there is no risk of contaminating food or kitchen items.
- Closed beverage containers are allowed, but they should be managed in a way that avoids contamination of the hands, the container itself, or any food-related equipment.
- All food establish must follow Nevada state laws on indoor air quality
- Workers with persistent sneezing, coughing, or a runny nose should not work with food or any potentially contaminable items.
- Employees with cuts on their hands, wrists, or fingers should cover them with waterproof bandages and enclose them with disposable gloves.
- Hair should be properly restrained with hats, hair nets, or other suitable items when near food or kitchen utensils.
Common Causes of Food Poisoning in Restaurants
There are many ways that bacteria, parasites, and viruses can contaminate restaurant food and lead to food poisoning, such as:
- Improperly storing food at temperatures where bacteria can grow
- Cross-contamination, such as when the same cutting surface is used for both raw meat and produce
- Cooking food at too low of a temperature to kill bacteria and other harmful organisms
- Serving food past its expiration date
- Employees failing to wash their hands before food preparation
If you or a loved one suffered from food poisoning caused by one of these mistakes, you could have grounds for legal action against the establishment that served you contaminated food.
Types of Legal Claims For Food Poisoning in Nevada
A legal claim for food poisoning can be filed under one of three legal principles in Nevada: product liability, negligence, and negligence per se. The right type of claim depends on the specific circumstances of a case.
If you are considering filing a food poisoning claim in Nevada, one of the experienced Las Vegas food poisoning lawyers at the Cottle Firm can review your case to determine which claim best suits your needs.
Food is a product, which means that businesses that work with food are subject to liability laws as other types of businesses. This includes food producers, distributors, retailers, restaurants, and other food-serving businesses. If one of these parties contaminates a food product that goes on to cause food poisoning, the victim may have grounds for a product liability claim.
It is important to note that, unlike other types of personal injury claims, there is no requirement to prove negligence for product liability claims in Nevada. These are strict liability claims, which require the following five criteria to be proven:
- The food product was defective due to an issue in its design, manufacturing, or warning labels
- This defect was present when it left the defendant’s possession
- The plaintiff used the product as intended
- The defect directly caused an injury or illness
- This injury or illness caused financial losses
Food poisoning claims can be filed based on negligence if a company that grows, produces, ships, or serves food products fails to ensure the safety of its products. These companies owe the public a duty of care to keep their products safe, and failing to do so violates this duty of care. If a consumer gets food poisoning because of this violation, the company is negligent and could be held liable for damages.
Negligence Per Se
Negligence per se is a legal concept that comes into play when an individual or business violates a law or regulation, and this violation directly leads to the kind of harm the law was designed to prevent. When this happens, the act of breaking the law is considered inherently negligent, and proof of negligence is essentially automatic.
For instance, if a restaurant violates state or federal health codes and a patron contracts food poisoning as a result, the restaurant might be found negligent per se because it broke laws specifically designed to prevent such illnesses. If the patron files a legal claim, they may not need to prove that the restaurant acted negligently, only that it violated a law and this violation led to their illness.
Discuss Your Case With Our Las Vegas Food Poisoning Lawyers
If you recently became severely ill due to food poisoning at a Las Vegas restaurant, hotel, casino, or other business, you may be wondering about your legal rights. Depending on the circumstances, you could have grounds for a personal injury claim against the business that served you contaminated food. To learn more about your legal options, contact the experienced Las Vegas food poison lawyers of the Cottle Firm at 702-722-6111.