Listeria monocytogenes are bacteria that cause a relatively rare but dangerous food-borne illness called listeriosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year 2,500 Americans get sick with listeriosis, and about 25 percent of them die as a result. While not very common, large-scale listeriosis outbreaks resulting from consumption of listeria-contaminated foods can and do occur. Often, these outbreaks are due to negligence on the part of the companies that process or serve food. When consumers are harmed by listeriosis because of this negligence, they may be entitled to receive compensation, which can be used to offset medical expenses, loss of employment or other devastating effects of the illness.

For instance, in 2002, a multistate listeriosis outbreak associated with consumption of tainted Pilgrims Pride turkey deli meat led to eight deaths, three stillbirths or miscarriages and 46 cases of severe illness. Pilgrims Pride recently agreed to pay more than $6 million in damages to the families of the four victims who died after eating the company’s deli meat. Perhaps the best-known listeriosis case is the 1998 outbreak, whereby 21 people died and 100 were seriously injured after consuming Sara Lee Ball Park hot dog franks. The notorious Sara Lee case was settled in 2001, when the company pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts, was fined $200,000 for criminal negligence and agreed to pay more than $4 million to the victims and/or their families.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may be a victim of a food-borne listeria infection, contact the food poisoning attorneys at the law offices of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz, PLLC at (844) 794-7402 to learn more about your legal rights and possible compensation.

Listeriosis: Symptoms and Complications

Listeria monocytogenes are bacteria that live in soil, water and the intestines of many animals. Because most animals that carry this germ do not become sick, listeria can enter the human food chain through meat and dairy products without being detected. The highest risk foods are unpasteurized dairy products such as milk and soft (non-aged) cheese, smoked seafood and processed meats (especially hot dogs, deli meats and paté). However, almost any product can become contaminated due to the fact that listeria can survive freezing, drying and even substantial heat.

People at highest risk of contracting listeria include pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. Expectant mothers are 20 times more likely than other healthy individuals to become infected, and this exposure often results in miscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness or death of the newborn. The initial symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea and diarrhea. If the infection spreads to the nervous system, the affected individual might experience headache, stiff neck, confusion and convulsions.

If listeriosis is diagnosed early enough, it can be treated effectively with antibiotics. However, since the first signs of listeria infection are usually mild and can be mistaken for flu, early diagnosis is the exception rather than the rule. As a result, many of the people affected by listeriosis develop serious complications, such as blood poisoning, spinal infection and inflammation (meningitis), brain inflammation (encephalitis) and, in pregnant women, fatal infection of the fetus. These complications account for the 25 percent mortality rate of acute listeriosis.

Listeriosis: Legal Recourse

If you suspect that you might have been exposed to listeria, you should contact your doctor immediately because early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to avoid potentially fatal complications. Precise diagnosis will also help the experienced lawyers at Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz, PLLC determine if your illness was a result of negligence on the part of the company making and/or distributing the product that made you sick. If this is the case, you could be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress and other damages.

You should also consult with a qualified lawyer if you suspect that the death of your loved one was caused by a listeria infection. In this case, the attorney may be able to help you file a wrongful death claim. To discuss your case and learn more about possible compensation, contact the experienced Pensacola, Florida lawyers at Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz, PLLC at (844) 794-7402.