Did I eat that?
Occasionally I will get a phone call from a person looking to see if they have a lawsuit for something in their food. I've had people complain about bugs, wood, glass, bone, plastic and other more gruesome things. One locally famous case found a finger. Apart from a certain entertainment value that appeals to my inner junior high student, these types of cases, gross as they are, usually have very little legal value.
One reason is that some things are foreseeable in food. A lot of times a bit of bone in a hamburger, or shell from some shrimp, is something that you might find naturally in food. The law only finds a server at fault when the size, quality, quantity or the food has been particualrly process that a person can't foresee that such an item may be in the food. Of course, a foreign non-edible object, such as a piece of plastic, also is not foreseeable.
The second reason comes from the basic law of damages. The law of damages is designed to put somebody where they would have been had there been no negligence. The law, under the implied warranty of merchantability, will allow you to recover medical bills, and physical pain and mental suffering from a broken tooth after biting down on a rock, but just a gross experience is not recoverable. Only in very extreme circumstances can anyone recover for just emotional distress, and as disgusting as some of the stories I have heard, nothing has risen to that level.
-Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC who practices in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Contract and Real Estate disputes, and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.