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Product Liability – Failure to Warn – Failure to warn restaurant patrons of dangers of consuming raw oysters if patrons suffer from liver dysfunction – decedent who suffers from liver cirrhosis dies shortly after consuming oysters at the defendant restaurant.

New Haven County, CT

In this product liability matter, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant restaurant was liable for failing to warn patrons of the dangers of consuming raw oysters if they suffered from a liver dysfunction. The plaintiff also sued the supplier of the seafood for providing defective seafood that contained bacteria. The defendants denied the allegations and disputed the plaintiff’s allegations and damages.

The 55-year-old female decedent, who suffered from liver cirrhosis, was a patron at the defendant’s restaurant on August 7, ________ when she decided to order raw oysters provided by the defendant seafood company. The plaintiff’s decedent consumed the oysters, contracted food poisoning shortly thereafter and died four days later. An autopsy confirmed that the decedent died as a result of sepsis from consuming raw oysters which contain bacteria.

The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant seafood provider on a product liability theory alleging that it provided a defective product, namely oysters containing bacteria, and it was negligent in doing so. The plaintiff also brought suit against the defendant restaurant alleging that they were negligent in failing to warn the plaintiff’s decedent and others of the dangers of consuming raw oysters if you suffered from liver dysfunction. The restaurant menu contained the generic warning about consuming raw or undercooked foods.

The defendants denied the allegations. The defendant seafood provider denied liability stating that there was no evidence that the defendant had mishandled or done anything to the oysters. The bacteria that caused the decedent’s death are naturally occurring in oysters. The defendant seafood distributor was ultimately dismissed as a party to the suit.

The defendant restaurant alleged that it was not negligent and it had provided a standard warning on its menu about the consumption of raw or undercooked foods. The plaintiff countered that the seafood distributor’s bags containing the oysters carried a very thorough warning regarding the specific dangers of consuming raw oysters. The defendants further argued that the decedent’s cirrhosis of the liver was a preexisting condition that accounted for the decedent’s death. Further, the defendant restaurant argued that the decedent had failed to follow her doctor’s warnings for several years regarding refraining from alcohol consumption, so even if the restaurant had provided a detailed warning regarding the oysters, most likely the decedent would have ignored it as she had ignored the warnings from her own doctor.The matter was tried. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury deliberated for three hours and returned its verdict in favor of the defendant restaurant and against the plaintiff.

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