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Role of an Infectious Disease Expert Witness in Food Poisoning Case

Many food poisoning cases require the assistance and expertise of an expert witness to understand the actual cause and severity of the contamination that affects and injures those that consume the food. An infectious disease consultant may provide details similar to those that work for the Centers for Disease Control that may take center stage in some food poisoning cases.

The Expert’s Background

Many experts that work with cases or claims of food poisoning have a background working with or for the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC will often become involved when multiple victims will fall prey to food contaminations. The agents will need to determine if the contaminant is infectious or may pass onto the general population based on the specific issue. Depending on the catalyst that caused the initial outbreak, the expert witness will have a role in explaining the infection and how it either spread or caused a larger issue with the customers or clients of a specific establishment.

Infectious Disease Aspect

The role of the professional with a background in infectious diseases may assist the claim in a greater capacity when he or she understands the agent that caused the food poisoning. Working in conjunction
with the doctor to determine the symptoms and the CDC or health department, the expert may determine more evidence, understand the timeline and even recreate the incident for the courtroom. It is crucial the judge or jury is fully aware of the contamination and how it is harmful to the victim and any others that consumed the food. These matters may help prove the company or employees were at fault or the supplier helped to cause the incident.

There are numerous viruses or bacteria that food may hold when moving from one area to another or when prepared incorrectly. It is these issues that an infectious disease professional would understand. The expert witness would have the ability to explain the specific contaminant and how it affects the customer that at the food. For the virus or bacterium that passes through contact, the infectious properties of the food could contaminate the system of other customers and cause a larger wide-spread issue than initially thought. The expert hired for these cases may provide evidence from the food, the doctor’s diagnosis and treatment and past evidence of similar cases.

The Medical Field

Often, someone that works in the infectious disease field will understand how the medical aspect plays into the case. There are certain treatments for the symptoms, ways to treat the virus or bacterium and understanding of blood work. How the infection spreads is crucial to keep the contamination in a localized area so the professionals may treat it accordingly. The expert may also need to communicate with medical professionals and work out the path, timetable and extent of injuries to the victim or group that consumed the contaminated food. This may also provide a means to combat the larger issue.

The Expert Witness Testing

Whether the professional hired for the case has a medical background or is working with someone with a lab, he or she will usually test the food, blood and other materials to check the type of virus or bacterium that caused the food poisoning. The results should help in determining where the contaminant came from to support the claim against the appropriate defendant. If it was the food establishment that caused the problem, the expert may need to work with a health inspector to shut down the restaurant or store until the matter clears up. If it was a chef or someone preparing the food, the contamination may remain localized to the kitchen and the single victim.

As an infectious disease expert, the professional may receive results from testing that proves the contaminant is communicable to others to a moderate or high degree. This may require a quarantine and contact and communication with the CDC in the area. With an infectious agent, the individual lawsuit may become a class action suit based on a larger number of victims affected by food poisoning or infection from the single person or group that ate the food.

The Infectious Disease Expert’s Testimony

The professional will usually provide testimony about the infection, how it affected the victim and work with the lawyer to progress the case with strength from testing results and evidence. He or she will speak to the courtroom about the concerns and what is necessary for a full recovery.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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