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Food Poisoning

Food-borne illness affects many Americans. Food poisoning legal claims can prevent others from suffering the same fate. Attorney Gary Newland discusses food poisoning and how to proceed when you're feeling ill.
Food Poisoning
Gary Newland
Gary Newland is an experienced trial attorney evidenced by the hundreds of cases he has successfully won at trial. Many of Gary’s cases have been covered by USA Today, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, NBC, The Daily Herald, Oprah Winfrey and the list goes on.

Learn more about Gary Newland

Bill Klaproth (Host): Americans are being poisoned at an alarming rate due to food-borne illness, causing violent sickness and in some cases, even death. I’m Bill Klaproth and in this episode of The Newland Lawcast, we talk about food poisoning. And here with us, is Gary Newland, an injury attorney and partner at Newland & Newland Law. Gary, thank you for so much for your time today. First off, can you quickly tell us about your experience when it comes to food poisoning claims?

Gary Newland: We’ve handled many different types of food poisoning claims. We’ve handled salmonella, E coli, listeria, hepatitis. We’ve handled different types of fish poisoning. We have dealt with cases that have reactive arthritis. We’ve dealt with cases that have permanent injuries resulting from food poisoning and some that don’t. When there’s a food poisoning outbreak, we typically, in Illinois anyways, represent the large share of those that have been injured.

Host: So, Gary, what’s the first things someone should do if they suspect they have food poisoning?

Gary: Well, first of all, anyone that suspects they have food poisoning, should go to a hospital or the doctor. And the other important process to follow, is to contact the health department. The reason it’s important to contact the health department is because literally, you can save lives. If that food poisoning can be traced back to a specific restaurant or food product; then you could save the life of someone who would eat that product and basically, if the health department finds out that it’s a specific product or determines it’s a specific product; they will make sure that product is taken off the market.

Host: Well that’s really good advice, contacting the health department right away and for someone who suspects they are suffering from food poisoning then, you also suggest calling you right away. Why is that?

Gary: Well it’s a good idea to call us right away because we’re familiar with the different types of food poisoning. Also, we can give advice on where to get treatment and we also have a great deal of concern for those that have compromised immune systems. For example, children and senior citizens. Their immune systems aren’t as strong and food poisoning can really be devastating on their systems and oftentimes, causes death or severe bodily harm. When someone is of really good health; usually they can fend off the food poisoning and return back to a state of good health, but not always. Those with compromised immune systems, the impact is devastating.

Host: So, is it a good rule of thumb if you wind up in the hospital or have to go to the Emergency Room, potentially it is food poisoning then?

Gary: There’s really no way to know for sure whether it’s food poisoning unless there’s a positive test that comes back where it’s identified as a specific type of food poisoning. Otherwise, food poisoning is just suspected. Now there are people however, that believe they were food poisoned and there was no test done. The only way we can prove that they were in fact food poisoned, is by tracing it back to a specific outbreak. For example, if it was a burrito that made somebody sick from a specific burrito restaurant; then we would need to evaluate the people that got sick from that restaurant whether your symptoms or that person’s symptoms were similar. And if they were similar, even if there isn’t a positive test, we can generally correlate it to the specific restaurant or the specific outbreak.

Host: And if possible, should a person save the food, if they can or if they have brought it home in a to go bag or something? Is saving the food if they can, a good idea?

Gary: It can be a good idea to save the food in fact, we would recommend that the food be saved. Not always is that possible because food poisoning can take up to 72 hours and sometimes even longer, depending on the type of food poisoning, before one realizes they are actually sick. Some people, in certain types of food poisoning, can take place relatively quickly or relatively soon after eating the food. But it is not unusual at all for it to take 72 hours or longer for symptoms to develop.

Host: So, when someone comes to you with a food poisoning claim; how do you work with that person? Tell us about your process.

Gary: Well since we do food poisoning on a regular basis, all of our forms are geared towards figuring out what exactly made the person sick, and how to prosecute the case for them to maximize their compensation. Since we do food poisoning all the time, or on a regular basis; we are able to ask the clients about certain symptoms that perhaps other attorneys wouldn’t be aware of. One of the more common situations we run into, is a condition called reactive arthritis. And what happens is, this doesn’t develop sometimes until six months after the illness and a doctor will diagnose someone with reactive arthritis, not necessarily draw the correlation to the food poisoning incident. But we know to follow up with the clients and ask them if in fact they are suffering from reactive arthritis, so that we can tie it into the specific instance of food poisoning and oftentimes, once the doctor is aware there was a food poisoning issue; they will then provide us the causal connection between the food poisoning and the reactive arthritis.

Host: So, Gary, how do you investigate that? How do you find that out? Who do you talk to when you are trying to determine that?

Gary: When we are trying to prove a food poisoning case, generally, we are looking at treating doctors to help us prove the case and sometimes most importantly, is the health department and the Center for Disease Control. The Center for Disease Control and the local health department will generally work together to determine if there was an outbreak. The Center for Disease Control will actually genetically test the bacteria to determine where it came from and where else in the country people are getting sick and this helps us determine whether it’s a product that is distributed nationally or whether it is a local outbreak. And the health department and the Center for Disease Control work together in the process of evaluating the source of illness. It’s so important to determine the source of illness because as we indicated earlier, people can die and have permanent injuries from food poisoning.

Host: Absolutely. This is very serious. So, when you are building that case then, is part of your process setting expectations with the client on where they stand and to present options to them as far as settling or heh this is serious, you can go to trial? Is that part of what you do?

Gary: Well, what we do is we build the case, every case, as if we are going to trial because generally, there is going to be an insurance company or a large corporation on the other side. And if we are not prepared for trial, they won’t take us seriously. So, we have to prepare the case as if we are serious and that means we have to do all of our research, we have to support every claim we make with the medical records and explain to the other side who is going to be testifying to what so that we can prove out case. Also, food poisoning also requires that we educate the insurance company and educate the corporation that’s involved because they are usually not fully aware of all the consequences and all the ways that it can impact people’s lives. For example, it’s common for there to be cross-contamination in a food poisoning situation for example, somebody comes home, they have food poisoning, they prepare a meal for the family, then the entire family gets sick. Well the entire family would then have a claim for getting sick as well. So, there’s a lot of different aspects to these cases and a lot of complexities which aren’t normal of most types of injury cases.

Host: If someone suspects they have food poisoning and they come to see you; is there a cost for consultation?

Gary: We don’t charge for a consultation. Our fees are based on a contingency fee basis and what that means is we charge a percentage of what we collect for the injured person.

Host: And if someone is so sick that they can’t make it to your office; will you travel to them?

Gary: It’s common that we would travel to their home or their hospital. When we get calls and people are sick, a lot of times, they have had their kidneys shut down, they are in the hospital, some are on dialysis; and we will go where we need to go to help people. That is what we do.

Host: So, Gary, is someone is so sick, say they are in a coma for example, I imagine you wind up working with family members a lot. Is that correct?

Gary: Oftentimes, it will be a family member that initially contacts us. Most of our business is referred from other lawyers because they realize that we have a great deal of experience in this area. And so, they refer the business to us, but generally our first contact is either through another law firm that’s referring it to us, through a family member or the individual that was poisoned.

Host: Well this has been very informative. And if you could just wrap it up for us Gary. What else should we know about food poisoning claims?

Gary: What’s most important is that people that get food poisoning should know that they are entitled to compensation. A lot of people think that oh I had food poisoning and they don’t pursue compensation because they are better in three or four days or a week and they just think oh I was sick. Well, the reality is; you were poisoned and there’s no reason for someone to be poisoned by a business that’s selling them food. A food poisoning case is a product liability case. What that means is, a restaurant, or a preparer of food is held to strict liability, because this is such a serious, serious thing. The government says that they are strictly liable for the damage that they cause an injured person. There is no defense for food poisoning if we can prove the food poisoning took place.

Host: And I think what you said earlier about reactive arthritis. This can show up months later. Is that right?

Gary: It’s not uncommon for conditions to manifest themselves six months or more later after a food poisoning. There are many illnesses that can develop months later from food poisoning.

Host: Wow, that’s really, really important to know. Well Gary, thank you so much for your time today. For more information on food poisoning, please visit, that’s This is the Newland Lawcast. I’m Bill Klaproth. Thanks for listening.