Outbreak of E. Coli Infections from Spinach: Recovery Under Products Liability


In recent weeks, the E. coli outbreak linked to spinach has made national headlines. Since the outbreak of E. coli infections suspected to have been caused by contaminated spinach, 173 people have become sick and 1 person has died. Reflecting the severity of the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised consumers to not eat any spinach grown in three counties in California implicated in the E. coli outbreak, Monterey County, San Benito County, and Santa Clara County. Three federal lawsuits have been filed thus far due to the outbreak, and many more are likely to follow. Persons who have consumed spinach and have been infected with E. coli may be able to recover under products liability.

Products liability is the area of law that deals with liability for injuries resulting from dangerous and defective products. Under products liability, anyone in a product’s chain of distribution may be held liable for injuries caused by a defective product. This would include, among others, the manufacturer, wholesaler, and retail seller. Liability of those in the distribution chain extends not only to those who actually purchased the product, but also to those who were foreseeable users. So long as the person injured is someone that a reasonable person could foresee as a user of the product, he/she may recover.

Under products liability, to recover for injuries, one must show that the product was defective, and such defect made the product unreasonably dangerous. Defects can be shown to exist in a product’s design, marketing, and manufacturing. A design defect exists where something in the product’s design makes it unreasonably dangerous. A marketing defect may be found where labeling is improper, instructions are insufficient, or warnings of a product’s dangers are not given. A manufacturing defect exists where the product made does not conform to the manufacturing specifications. With a manufacturing defect, the issue is not with a product’s design, but with how the product was manufactured. In the case of E. Coli infections resulting from contaminated spinach, one may have a viable claim under products liability due to a manufacturing defect. A manufacturing defect may be shown in that the spinach contaminated with E. Coli does not conform with manufacturing specifications of bacteria-free spinach.

Those in a product’s distribution chain are in a better position to discover and guard against defects and warn of dangers. With regard to the growers of spinach, they are in the best position to insure that spinach they produce is free from any E. Coli bacteria. As a result, liability may be asserted against them. If you have suffered injury resulting from contaminated spinach, or any other food, it is important that you consult with an experienced attorney to determine whether you have an actionable claim.

Please note that this article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice. The article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information. This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. This article does not create any attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Kenneth U. Reyes, P.C. This article is not a solicitation.

Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes was President of the Philippine American Bar Association for 2005. He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He is a graduate of Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, San Bernardino School of Business Administration. He has extensive former CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA, 90010. Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail kureyeslaw@gmail.com; visit at www.kenreyeslaw.com

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