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ARTICLE ID 6359

$________ ARBITRATION AWARD Food contamination - Product liability - Breach of warranty - 80- year-old woman suffers E.coli poisoning as an alleged result of ingesting ground beef at the restaurant.

Middlesex County, Massachusetts

This action was brought by the female plaintiff, age 80 when she was diagnosed with E.coli bacteria food poisoning as an alleged result of ingesting contaminated ground beef at the defendant Old Country Buffet. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant on a products liability breach of warranty theory.

The plaintiff testified that she ingested hamburger patties at the defendant’s restaurant in Watertown, Mass. on June 27, ________. Several days later, she began to experience severe symptoms of E.coli bacteria food poisoning and was admitted to the hospital in serious condition for a 21-day stay the following week, incurring approximately $________ in medical expenses.

Testing at the hospital revealed the presence of E.coli 0157H7, a virulent strain of the bacteria most commonly found in ground beef products. The plaintiff contended that the defendant’s restaurant was the only contact she had with ground beef products during any possible incubation period. The plaintiff elicited evidence from the defendant’s manager, which the plaintiff argued supported the inference of insufficient temperature maintained in one of the defendant’s holding pans. The plaintiff contended that the ground beef she ingested at the defendant’s restaurant was not sufficiently cooked, thereby resulting in the E.coli contamination.

The plaintiff presented expert testimony from a microbiologist who confirmed that ground beef was the most likely source of the plaintiff’s E.coli infection, ground beef being the highest, most likely source of this type of bacteria. This expert opined, based upon his review of the plaintiff’s eating history during the incubation period for the illness, the illness was contracted from the ingestion of ground beef at the defendant restaurant. The plaintiff contended that as a result of her ingesting E.coli contaminated ground beef at the defendant’s restaurant, she became so ill that she required a six week hospital stay. The plaintiff testified that she continues to experience residual effects of the severe gastric illness suffered as a result of her ingestion of E.coli.

The defendant presented expert testimony that there was insufficient evidence to link the plaintiff’s illness to any of its food products.

The defendant additionally offered proof that there were no other reports of confirmed E.coli infection from any other patrons of the restaurant. The plaintiff countered with testimony from the expert microbiologist regarding the nature of E.coli infection and the fact that it often occurs in an isolated and random manner, contaminating one small piece of meat among other uncontaminated pieces and then, if undercooked, leads to illness in the person ingesting it. The defendants further asserted that much of the plaintiff’s medical treatment was attributable to a condition other than that allegedly caused by E.coli infection.

The arbitrator found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded $________.

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