Penalties for Foodborne Illness: Jury Decisions and Awards in Foodborne Illness Lawsuits

This study examined how various case attributes impact plaintiff success and payouts in jury settled FBI lawsuits. Given the risk to firms in terms of potentially large payouts, future litigation, and lost reputation, the results may provide economic incentives for food firms and others in the supply chain to produce safer and better quality foods. Reviewing the outcomes of 511 FBI jury trials between 1979 and 2014, plaintiffs won approximately 35 percent of the cases, receiving a median award of $32,264. The Heckman Two-Step procedure was performed to examine the effects of various factors on plaintiff success rates and subsequent amounts awarded. Plaintiff chances of victory increased if lawsuits involved a child, foodborne pathogen was identified and pain and suffering was claimed, and decreased if defendants used of one or more expert witnesses or had “deep pockets”. Cases involving a child, chronic complications, or defendants with “deep pockets” resulted in higher awards.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-23

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