One of the most common types of cases I see in online legal forums from prospective clients is the “foreign object in food” case. This is one area where, many times, a prospective client’s view of a case and a jury’s view are enormously divergent. The thought harkens me back to a time when I was in junior high school, and my dad, a trial lawyer, took a “rat in the milk carton case.” Like his client, I was horrified at the thought of looking in a milk carton after drinking a glass of milk only to find a rodent in it. My dad sunk lots of money into case, hired an expert, took it to trial, and the jury wasn’t impressed.
Post-trial interviews with jurors we mostly identical: it’s a shame, but it’s not recoverable; we all have problems, this isn’t a big deal; and “if that’s the Plaintiff’s biggest problem in life, then he has no problems.” In sum, unless there are lingering physical effects, the jury will be reluctant to compensate, even for documented nightmares, anxiety, and other non-physical conditions.
Since that case, I have been extremely selective in taking any type of related case that involves a foreign object in food. The one exception to this policy is a client that bit into a burger only to have a screw knock out one of his teeth. Employees of the restaurant chain saw it happen, and the client had documented medical expenses.
Unless objective medical evidence exists to support a claim for physical injury, these foreign object in food cases are very difficult to turn into a recoverable claim. Because of this, many attorneys are cognizant that case selection is one of the most crucial aspects of a profitable law practice, are reluctant to even consider these cases.
Therefore, it’s imperative if you have a “foreign object in food” type of case, that you ensure that you have objective medical evidence of a physical injury. Otherwise, most attorneys, and in turn, most insurance claims adjusters, won’t consider non-economic damages for such a claim. However, if you have documented evidence of a serious physical injury from such an event, you should consult an attorney.