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Product liability - Food contamination - Worm contained in broccoli served at hospital - Nausea - Medical tests performed - Claimed emotional injuries.

Palm Beach County, FL

The plaintiff was a patient in the defendant hospital where she claimed that she was served broccoli which contained a green worm. The defendants included the hospital, as well as the manufacturer and the seller of the pre-packaged hospital food. The defendant manufacturer assumed the defense of all defendants at trial. The defendants argued that the food met Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards and that the plaintiff sustained no damages as a result of the incident.

The plaintiff was a female in her mid-40s who was admitted to the hospital with complaints of lightheadedness, faintness and tingling in her arms. She testified that she was eating a meal served in her hospital room when she discovered a green worm, approximately a half-inch long in her broccoli. The plaintiff claimed that she had eaten a portion of the worm, became nauseous and vomited more worms into the toilet.

The plaintiff called a hospital nurse who testified that the plaintiff pointed out a small, intact worm on the broccoli in her food tray. She also testified that she inspected the plaintiff’s vomit and did not see additional worms. The plaintiff’s gastroenterologist testified that he performed medical procedures, including stool samples, blood test and endoscopy as a result of the worm incident at a cost of approximately $________ to $________.

The plaintiff also claimed emotional injuries which now prevent her from eating fresh fruits and vegetables. The plaintiff alleged that she experienced significant weight gain as a result of the unhealthy diet she now eats. The plaintiff claimed that her weight increased from ________ pounds to ________ or ________ pounds as a result of the incident. The plaintiff’s husband testified that the plaintiff is fat and that he is "grossed out" by the thoughts of having sexual relations with her. The pastor of the plaintiff’s church testified that the plaintiff is precluded from eating many foods at church Fellowship feasts and that she is afraid of offending those parishioners who bring the food.

The defendant argued that due to the field grown and harvested nature of the food, it was impossible to manufacture it fee from all forms of pests. The broccoli met FDA standards for defect action levels of 60 milligrams of insects, and was acceptable for human consumption, according to the defense. The defense argued that all of the plaintiff’s diagnostic tests were negative.

The plaintiff’s treating gastroenterologist testified, on cross examination, that the plaintiff’s endoscopy led to a diagnosis of an unrelated bacteria causing chronic inflammation of the stomach and that the test would have been warranted regardless of the worm incident. Defense counsel asked the plaintiff to get onto a scale, during the trial. The scale showed that the plaintiff weighed ________ pounds, less than her weight of ________ at the time of her hospital admission.

The jury found no negligence on the part of any defendant which was a legal cause of injury to the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s post-trial motions for new trial and JNOV are pending. The defendants have filed motions to tax costs of approximately $________.

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