NEGLIGENCE IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY

INTRODUCTION

The tort law of negligence plays a vital role in safeguarding individuals from contaminated food. The tort law of negligence will assist persons in learning more about regulations about food safety, food packing, and so on.

As a result, this research paper aims to study more numerous components of the food industry such as product responsibility, food safety of packaged food, health concerns caused by unhealthy and contaminated food, and foodborne sickness. It is well known that Indian tort law is based on English common law. As a result, the law governing negligence is established and updated by Indian courts based on equity, justice, and good conscience principles. Negligence is derived from the Latin word negligentia, which means "failure to pick up." In the broad sense, negligence refers to the act of being careless, whereas, in the legal sense, it refers to the failure to exercise a standard of care that the doer, as a reasonable man, should have exercised in a given scenario. Only in the 18th century did negligence emerge as a separate cause of action in English law. Similarly, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860 included no provision for causing the death of a person by negligence, which was later revised in 1870 by inserting section 304A. According to Winfield and Jolowicz, negligence is the breach of a legal duty of care by the plaintiff, which results in an unintended injury to the plaintiff. In Blyth v. Birmingham WaterWorks Co., negligence was defined as the failure to do something that a prudent or reasonable person would do or doing something that a prudent or reasonable person would not do.

"Negligence involves more than thoughtless or careless conduct...it correctly connotes the complex ideas of duty, breach, and injury consequently incurred by the person to whom the obligation owes," wrote Lord Wright in the case of Loghelly Iron & Coal v McMullan [1934]. As a result, based on the above-mentioned definition, it is obvious that the following are the key aspects of negligence law:

▪ An individual who causes damage (a defendant) owes a duty of care to another individual who suffers the damage (a plaintiff);

▪ There is a breach of the above-mentioned duty;

▪ There is damage caused by the above-mentioned breach of duty

▪ There is a reasonably close relationship between the damage and the breach of duty

Law of tort may be subdivided into areas of law dealing with different types of matters affecting the actions, rights, and remedies of the injured parties. There are laws of tort on nuisance, trespass, and negligence. As for this paper, the discussion will focus on the law of tort on negligence in the food industry. A company must exert reasonable care under general negligence standards. "Reasonable care" in the restaurant context refers to the restaurant's responsibility to maintain a safe atmosphere, create safe goods (i.e., meals), and eliminate unreasonable risks. When a restaurant's obligation to its customers is breached, a negligence suit begins to form. A restaurant, for example, may violate its obligation by keeping a filthy kitchen and storing food in unclean conditions.

A plaintiff must establish that the company caused the food poisoning in a negligence action against a store or restaurant for food poisoning. In other words, it must be proven that the plaintiff's illness was caused by the business's dangerous food. In certain situations, proving causality might be challenging. A further challenge for a plaintiff in a food poisoning action is proving that the sickness was caused by the business's food rather than other food. The plaintiff may have had breakfast at home before going out to lunch and being unwell. It is necessary to isolate and identify the source. A doctor should be called right once to detect the sickness and identify the contaminated food. Finally, a plaintiff must show that he or she has been harmed or injured. These criteria can be met simply by falling unwell. However, the severity of your illness may influence whether or not it is reasonable to pursue a lawsuit against the business or restaurant.


CASE ANALYSIS

CASE1: RUDLOFF V. WENDY RESTAURANT 1

2.1 FACTS:

• Robert Rudloff (plaintiff) alleges that he broke a tooth while eating a double cheeseburger (herein referred to as hamburger) at a Wendy's restaurant.

• The plaintiff sued the operator of the restaurant, Wendy's Restaurant of Rochester, Inc., and the manufacturer of the hamburger patty, Moyer Packing Company, Inc.

• Plaintiff filed suit for personal injuries.2

• The plaintiff claims to have swollen the portion of hamburger he was injured on to be unknown.

• The object could be a piece of bone, gristle, or other substance that was “natural” to the ground beef and fat that make up a hamburger patty.

• Or a "foreign" object, such as a machine part, that may have slipped inside the hamburger patty by accident during preparation.

• Objects could also be from a different part of the hamburger, such as the bun, cheese, or sauce.

• The plaintiff sued under theories of strict liability, negligence, and implied warranty.3


2.2 ISSUES:

• Establishing the tort of negligence requires proving that the appellant owed the claimant a duty of care, which was broken in a way that resulted in recoverable injury to the claimant.

• The respondent must show that the appellant failed to act as a reasonable person would in their position.

• In this case, the question was what was the foreign object in the patty of the plaintiff’s hamburger.


2.3 ARGUMENTS

➢ From Appellant’s side (Wendy’s restaurant):

1. Before a man can be convicted of actionable negligence it was not enough that the event should be such as can be reasonably foreseen.

2. Wendy’s is moving for summary judgment based on the following theories:

• There was no negligence shown on the part of Wendy’s as to how the burger was prepared.

• The plaintiff cannot prove that the substance in the hamburger patty that caused the injury was not natural.

• There is no proof that the patty was unfit for consumption, therefore there is no breach of any implied warranty.

3 Moyer Packing joins Wendy's in its lack of negligence and foreign/natural arguments and adds the argument that the plaintiff cannot prove that the hamburger patty was defective when it left their control at the time of manufacture.

➢ From Respondent’s side (Robert Rudloff)


1. The plaintiff claims that even though the object caused injury he can’t identify the foreign object.

2. Rudloff further claimed Wendy's negligent inspection and preparation of the entire hamburger and not just the hamburger patty.

3. If by mistake of one party the other innocent party is injured then it is to be very carefully seen and measures should be taken.


2.4 JUDICIAL REASONING

According to the court, Wendy's could establish that they had not been negligent in their preparation of the cheeseburger patty, but they could not show that they had exercised the same level of care in ensuring that the prefabricated patties they purchased were free of such faults. The plaintiff had fulfilled his burden of proof that the parties did not function as intended, according to the strict liability claims. The court found grounds to revisit the 'foreign-natural' criterion in examining the implied warranty claim, ruling that the 'foreign natural' rule was not the right test for what transpired and also that it was not a total bar to the case. Even if the 'foreign-natural' criteria had survived the Uniform Commercial Code's adoption, Wendy's would have lost since the right measure is what the customer reasonably expects.

The nature of the object and how the meal was cooked should be considered, but not the primary element in determining culpability.


2.5 JUDGEMENT

It was held that for an act to be negligent there must be not only a reasonable possibility of happening but also injury caused. Therefore, the fact that the plaintiff cannot prove that the substance that caused his injury was not “foreign” to the hamburger patty is an insufficient basis to grant summary judgment to Wendy's and Moyer Packing on the plaintiff's implied warranty cause of action and those motions are also denied.

CASE 2: BUSSEY V. E.S.C RESTAURANTS 4

3.1 FACTS

• Bussey (Plaintiff) became acutely ill after eating beef tips that smelled bad at a Golden Corral restaurant.

• Later that day she began to experience nausea and diarrhea and was taken to the hospital.

• It was found out that she was diagnosed with food poisoning.

• She filed a motion for judgment against the restaurant claiming negligence and breach of implied warranty.

3.2 ISSUES

• Establishing the tort of negligence requires proving that the appellant owed the claimant a duty of care, which was broken in a way that resulted in recoverable injury to the claimant.

• Whether the restaurant was liable for the food poisoning caused to the plaintiff.


3.3 ARGUMENTS

➢ From Appellant’s side (Bussey):


• Her uncontradicted testimony was that she did not eat anything else on the day in question.

• She could not recall eating anything the day before except a bowl of cereal for breakfast, establishing a period without other food over 24 hours before the meal at Golden Corral.

• Bussey was still experiencing gastrointestinal disturbance when she was in the emergency room where she was treated with intravenous fluids and medications.

• She went to her treating physician, Dr. Gaylord, who diagnosed her condition as food poisoning and she was hospitalized for four days.

➢ From Respondent’s side (ESC restaurant):


• The manager of the restaurant admitted that he had told the cook not to use that meat.

• They argued that there was no proper evidence that it was only because of their meat the plaintiff suffered food poisoning.


3.4 JUDICIAL REASONING:

We hold that the lay testimony coupled with the doctor's diagnosis was sufficient to support the jury verdict. Bussey ate only one meal within 36 hours, the meal consisted of beef that “smelled bad,” and thereafter she suffered a sudden illness that was diagnosed as food poisoning. The evidence is neither speculative nor scant, and the jury verdict naturally follows from fair inferences drawn from the evidence. The right to a trial by a jury in a civil case is constitutional in origin. Article 1, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia provides that in civil suits respecting property interests, “trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred.” A jury's verdict should be set aside only where it is wrong or there is no credible evidence in the record to support that verdict. Such circumstances did not exist in this case


3.5 JUDGEMENT

The facts and testimony 5provided by the plaintiff were sufficient to establish elements for a jury case as to negligence and/or breach of implied warranty in regards to the food. The burden was on the plaintiff to show that the food was unreasonably dangerous and that food was unreasonably dangerous and that conditions existed when the food left the defendant’s hands. Plaintiff met her burden in this case.


CONCLUSION

Food safety is ultimately concerned with the stage of consumption, where the presence and severity of food-borne hazards are of primary concern.

Given that food safety issues can arise at any point along the food chain, strict control measures must be followed at all times. As a result, food safety is a shared duty among all participants in the food chain. A variety of considerations go into the design of a food safety system. To begin, minimum hygiene standards should be determined by laws and regulations, food producers must implement food safety measures and procedures, and government agencies must supervise and inspect food industry companies to ensure that they are operated by the applicable regulations. Contamination of foods at every step, from manufacture to consumption, causes food poisoning incidents that endanger public health across the world. Even though the elements threatening food safety appear to be simple to regulate in principle, studies and present practices show that there is still a long way to go in practice. Consumers have a legal and ethical right to know and expect that the food and drinks offered by restaurants and other food-related businesses are safe, healthful, and unadulterated, as well as appropriately branded and labeled. Due to their knowledge and skill, as well as their involvement in creating, storing, selling, preparing, and serving food, restaurants and other food-related businesses have a significant advantage over consumers. As a result, restaurants and other food businesses have legal and ethical obligations to take extra precautions to guarantee that consumers are not injured by adulterated or contaminated food items. In the context of adulterated and contaminated food and drinks supplied or given by restaurants. This systematic review of the literature identified common food safety-related public health risks in the food market. The findings suggest that food marketing on a local and international level continues to have a significant impact on public health. Food supply chains cross multiple national borders, resulting in increased internationalization of health risks. As a result, to protect the public's health and safety, comprehensive national food control systems are required. Risk-based food control strategies must be implemented and enforced. Countries must also ensure that their foods entering international trade are safe and of high quality, as well as that imported foods meet national standards. Furthermore, food producers and retailers must adhere to national food safety guidelines and work to ensure that their customers' safety is not jeopardized.



This article is written by Tanvi shah of NMIMS KIRIT P MEHTA SCHOOL OF LAW.


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