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Contamination Picked Up in a Food Processing Plant

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who said she was injured after swallowing a hard, sharp piece of clear plastic. She swallowed the plastic while eating creamed corn that she poured directly from a can into a saucepan for heating. She had to undergo a painful scope procedure at the hospital to remove the item. She wanted to know if she could sue.

This type of claim falls under the Indiana Product Liability Act (IPLA). And, yes, the caller likely has a case against the food product manufacturer and distributor.

The IPLA covers strict liability for breach of warranty and negligence. Where a manufacturer sells a canned food product, placing the product into the stream of commerce in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to any consumer, the victim has a right to sue for the harm caused by the product.

The caller had saved the can and the contents of the saucepan. The pan contained fragments of what were determined to be plastic pieces. She contended that the canned corn product was sold with several plastic pieces inside. If so, the product was defective, unreasonably dangerous, unwholesome, and unfit for human consumption.

The piece of plastic removed at the hospital matched the fragments that came out of the can.

One of the issues in such a case will be how the contaminants got into the can. Typically, the injured party will argue that the seller is liable based upon the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. In other words, the injured party will contend that the seller had exclusive control over the manufacturing of the product. That under normal circumstances, plastic contaminants would not be found inside a canned corn product unless the manufacturer was negligent. Therefore, it can be inferred that the incident resulted from the seller’s negligence.

In cases we have handled of this type, we have confirmed that many food processing plants have procedures and equipment to screen out contamination of the kind involved in the caller’s case.

The contaminants involved in this caller’s case would not necessarily have been picked up in a food canner’s screening process if the screening machine was not set to a high enough sensitivity level to pick up such small pieces.

Investigating such a claim will require accessing the food canning company’s foreign substance-related audit logs. It may also require inspecting the processing equipment.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”