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Allegedly Bad Chicken Worth $140,000 to Foodborne Illness Plaintiff

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Concord, NCA recent case of foodborne illness has borne out the observation that you often don't need a lot of hard evidence in order to win a food poisoning lawsuit. A Concord man who landed in hospital for a week after eating what was alleged to be a tainted chicken dinner, was favored with a jury award totaling $140,000 upheld on appeal.

As summarized in Lawyers Weekly USA (7/6/12) plaintiff Michael Williams had consumed a chicken dinner at 'O'Charley's,' a restaurant located in Concord, North Carolina, on the evening of March 19th, 2008. Williams was healthy prior to eating the meal, and testified he had nothing to eat prior, or following the meal consumed that night at about 9pm, before food poisoning set in.

By 8am the next morning, it is reported that Williams commenced severe diarrhea and vomiting that lasted two days. Upon presenting himself at hospital, the plaintiff was admitted and spent seven days recovering.

In his food poisoning lawsuit, Williams described finding the chicken he had consumed to have featured a foul aftertaste, was stuck to the plate and was dry.

Williams was treated in hospital by Dr. Christopher McIltrot, who provided expert testimony during Williams' trial undertaken with the help of his food poisoning lawyer. While the evidence—the actual chicken dinner—was long gone, the jury relied on expert testimony of the treating physician, who testified with a reasonable degree of certainty that the plaintiff's illness was more likely than not caused by Williams' consumption of the chicken dinner at the defendant premises.

The plaintiff sued for negligence and the trial jury found for the defendant on the negligence claim, but awarded $140,000 to the plaintiff after finding O'Charley's liable for breach of implied warranty of merchantability.

The defendant sought to have the verdict set aside, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to establish a defect in the chicken.

However, the North Carolina Court of Appeals found numerous precedents in previous foodborne illness cases to warrant finding for the plaintiff.

"Dr. McIltrot formed this opinion after observing plaintiff, conducting tests and procedures, and ruling out other anatomic, physical, and medical causes," the court said. "The trial court did not err in denying defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict based upon the competency of plaintiff's medical causation evidence."

Foodborne illness can be extremely serious, especially for young children, the elderly or those with weakened immune systems. Foodborne illness outbreaks can be even more devastating, as they can affect scores of people across vast geographical areas. Dehydration is a serious threat—so much so in Williams' case that he required seven days in hospital for treatment of symptoms that were not evident prior to the plaintiff eating the food at the defendant premises.

The food poisoning lawsuit (on appeal) was Williams v. O'Charley's INC. No. COA11-1467 and heard in the Court of Appeals, North Carolina.


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