June 3, 2024

When you head to the grocery store to buy food for your family, you should be able to trust that the items on the shelves are safe for consumption. Unfortunately, lapses in food safety protocols can lead to dangerous contamination incidents, putting unsuspecting consumers at risk of serious food-borne illnesses.

In 2020, for instance, more than 20 people across three states, including Alabama, fell ill with Salmonella Enteritidis poisoning linked to contaminated eggs purchased from local grocery stores.

If you or a loved one is a victim of food poisoning after consuming contaminated grocery store products, you deserve compensation. An experienced Alabama personal injury lawyer can help you hold the store accountable and seek the financial support you deserve.

Grocery Stores and Liability

Grocery stores owe their customers a duty of care, which means they must ensure their premises are safe and free from hazards and that the products they sell are safe. If you’re harmed by a grocery store product due to food poisoning, you may be able to hold the store accountable under product liability laws or a negligence claim.

  • Product Liability: This applies when a product sold by the grocery store, such as contaminated food, is defective. You do not need to prove the store’s negligence to pursue a product liability claim. Instead, you must demonstrate that the product was dangerous at the time of sale and that this defect caused you harm.
  • Negligence Claims: These require proving that the store failed in its duty of care. For example, if a store knew of a risk of contamination but did not take adequate steps to prevent it, or if employee actions like not washing their hands contaminated the food, it could constitute negligence. You must show that the store’s failure to act responsibly led to your injury.

Examples of Food Contamination at Grocery Stores

Food contamination incidents at grocery stores are more common than you might think. For instance, in 2018, 210 people across 36 states fell ill due to an E. coli outbreak caused by romaine lettuce sold at top national retailers. Alabama saw 3 reports of illness.

The Alabama Department of Public Health routinely shuts down grocers and businesses that violate the state’s food safety policies. For example, in 2024, the following stores were closed at least temporarily due to conditions that could lead to contaminated or soiled food:

NameLocation and DateReason Closed
Broad Street Food Mart501 South Broad Street Mobile, AL 36603 03/14/2024Complete lack of hot water
Smart Food Mart900 20th Street Birmingham, AL 35218 03/11/2024Complete lack of hot water

What Constitutes Negligence?

While those affected can pursue damages like hospital bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, they often struggle with the legal complexities of proving their case. To establish negligence and hold a grocery store liable for selling contaminated food products, you might show the following:

  • Store’s Knowledge of Contamination: You must prove that the grocery store knew or should have reasonably known about potential contamination risks. This could include internal reports of health and safety violations, complaints from customers, or a recall notice from suppliers that was ignored or not adequately acted upon.
  • Foreseeability of Harm: You must demonstrate that the grocery store could have anticipated the risk of harm from selling certain products. This could include evidence of previous contamination incidents involving similar products, warnings from manufacturers or health agencies, or known hazards associated with improperly stored perishable items.
  • Violations of Food Safety Regulations: Proving negligence can also involve evidence that the store breached food safety codes and regulations governing proper handling, storage, distribution, sanitation practices, employee hygiene, temperature controls, and other preventative measures to avoid contamination incidents.

What to Do if You Suffer Damages Due to Contaminated Food

If you suspect you contracted a food-borne illness from contaminated grocery store products, take prompt action to preserve evidence and your legal rights. Here are the steps you should take:

  • Seek Medical Attention Immediately: Get professional medical care, testing to confirm the illness or pathogen, and thorough documentation of your symptoms, treatments, and medical expenses. This creates an official record, tying your illness to the contaminated food.
  • Keep Remaining Products: Store any leftovers from potentially contaminated foods, packaging, receipts, proof of purchase, or any other physical evidence that could link your illness back to the grocery store’s supply.
  • Report the Incident: Notify the grocery store about your suspected illness from their products, and file a formal report with the Alabama Department of Public Health so they can investigate. Keep copies of any reports filed, all communications, and investigation results.
  • Consult a Lawyer: Speak to a skilled attorney as soon as possible after the incident. Our experienced attorneys at The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers can evaluate your legal situation, investigate evidence of the store’s negligence, and help you fight for the compensation you deserve for your medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Get the Compensation You Deserve Today

Food poisoning is not just an inconvenience; it can have severe and lasting consequences. If you or a loved one suffered harm from contaminated grocery store food in Alabama, meet with our team at The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers today.

We have extensive experience handling complex food contamination cases against grocery chains, manufacturers, and distributors. We can thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your illness, gather evidence to establish liability, and fight tirelessly to secure the maximum compensation you’re owed.

Contact us today for a free, confidential case evaluation.

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