A woman was eating her meal at the North Myrtle Beach Outback restaurant when she says she bit into her sweet potato and found shards of glass in the potato. She says that she bit the glass shards, swallowed a shard of glass, and was hurt as a result.
Is that the restaurant’s fault? It seems clear to me that, if glass or another foreign object in your food causes an injury, the restaurant serving the meal is responsible for the injuries. But, looking at the online comments to news articles about the incident, it appears that many readers disagree.
When can you sue if there is glass in your food? Is it a frivolous lawsuit? What kind of damages can a person recover if they are hurt by foreign objects in their food?
Can I Sue if There is Glass in My Food?
If you are eating a meal at a restaurant and are hurt by a foreign object in your food, the restaurant and possibly other defendants may be liable for the damage that was caused.
The lawsuit may be based on negligence, but there are several potential theories of recovery that may include:
- Product liability;
- Breach of warranty;
- Strict liability;
- Negligence; and
- Gross negligence.
What is Product Liability?
Product liability is a form of negligence, although a plaintiff does not always have to prove negligence when a defective product causes injury.
A product that is sold in the marketplace is required to meet the needs and expectations of a consumer. If a potato causes internal injury instead of providing nourishment, it clearly does not meet the expectations of the consumer – potentially making the manufacturer or seller liable for the damage caused by the unexpected defect.
What is “Res Ipsa Loquitur?”
In most personal injury lawsuits, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove that the defendant’s actions were negligent and caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
In some cases, however, the doctrine of “res ipsa loquitur” applies. It’s a Latin phrase that means “the thing speaks for itself” – the problem would not have existed unless someone was negligent. Res ipsa loquitur sometimes applies in products liability cases, forcing the defendant to prove that they were not negligent instead of the plaintiff proving that the defendant was negligent.
What is Strict Liability?
In some products liability cases, the principle of “strict liability” will apply. When strict liability applies, the plaintiff does not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. If the injured person proves that the product was defective, the manufacturer is liable.
When Can I Sue if There is Glass in My Food?
It’s not uncommon for people to find foreign objects in their food at a restaurant, including things like:
- Glass shards;
- Splinters of wood;
- Spit or other body fluids; and
- Insects, mice, or other small animals.
But can I sue if there is glass in my food? Or another foreign object?
It depends. Unless res ipsa loquitur or strict liability apply (see above), you can sue if:
- Another person or company was negligent in preparing the food;
- You were injured by the foreign object in your food (there are damages); and
- Their negligence was the proximate cause of your injuries.
When someone’s negligence causes injury to another person, that is the definition of injury law, isn’t it? The person who causes the injury must pay for the damage they caused – this is why we have a tort system in the first place…
If I Sue Because There is Glass in My Food is that a Frivolous Lawsuit?
If you are eating a meal at a restaurant, you ingest a foreign object like glass or wood, and it causes an injury, that is not a frivolous lawsuit.
What would be a frivolous lawsuit?
- If you find glass in your food before you eat it and there are no injuries.
- If you put glass in your food and then claim that it is the restaurant’s fault.
- If someone else put the glass in your food and you claim it was the restaurant’s fault.
Frivolous lawsuits are seldom filed when a plaintiff has an attorney because the attorney will: 1) investigate the claims before filing a lawsuit; and 2) decline to take the case if there are no damages (no damages = no recovery = neither client or attorney gets paid).
Is the Outback Lawsuit Frivolous?
Based on the media reports, the woman:
- Ordered a meal, purchasing it from Outback restaurant;
- Bit into glass shards and swallowed a shard of glass;
- Suffered an injury and required medical treatment.
If the allegations are true and the woman can prove their truth at trial, it is a valid lawsuit. But how can someone prove that it was the restaurant that put the glass into the woman’s food?
According to the lawsuit filing, “A manager told Holland the glass most likely came from glass jars containing brown sugar kept under heat lamps in the kitchen…”
Does Delay Make a Lawsuit Frivolous?
She waited several months before filing the lawsuit – does that make it a frivolous lawsuit?
Of course not – it’s normal for lawsuits to be filed a year, two years, or even just short of three years after the incident. It would be malpractice for a personal injury lawyer to file a lawsuit and negotiate a settlement before a person’s injuries were fully known and they finished medical treatment – this is one reason why most lawsuits based on negligence have a statute of limitations of three years…
Myrtle Beach Personal Injury and Products Liability Attorneys
If you are injured by glass or another foreign object in your food, your Myrtle Beach products liability attorney at Coastal Law will help you to determine whether you have a valid claim, who is responsible, and help you to collect maximum damages whenever possible.
Call now at (843) 488-5000 or contact us via email to talk to a Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyer today.