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Severe Allergic Reactions to Employer-Provided Meals

Although free food is a nice benefit for employees, providing food invites the relatively rare but potentially significant risk that an employee could suffer an allergic reaction. This is especially so if the allergen is not disclosed on the food’s packaging. Food provided in the workplace raises potential challenges for the employee who is injured and requires medical care. There are several dimensions that must be taken into account, such as whether the food was provided during working hours or was given to the employee to eat on personal time. These questions are important because they can determine if the employee’s illness or injury is covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation law requires employers to insure their employees against injuries or illnesses that arise out of or in the course of employment. If food is provided to an employee during working hours or in connection with a work-related event, such as a meeting, the question of the injury’s work-relatedness likely will be answered in favor of coverage by workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation coverage has good and bad elements for an employee. On the one hand, it is a form of no-fault insurance that will cover medical costs, replace wages, and provide other benefits that vary according to the nature of the employee’s illness and other factors. On the other hand, an employee is barred from filing a personal injury lawsuit against an employer for most injuries that are covered by workers’ compensation. This is true even if the employer was negligent—for example, if another employee switched the warning labels on food so the injured employee did not know about the presence of an allergen. Workers’ compensation law may not restrict an employee’s ability to sue the service or restaurant that provided the food. If in the above example the negligent act that led to a mislabeling of food was committed by the outside service, the employee may have a good case that they have failed to take reasonable precautions to notify customers about the presence of potential allergens in their food. Restaurants take pains to track common allergens, like nuts, so when they fail to do so it is often a sign of negligence and actionable by someone who gets injured as a consequence. Cases involving businesses and employment are always more complicated than they might seem. Someone who is faced with complications from an allergic reaction to workplace food should consult with an attorney to better understand how the law can help them. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. For a free attorney consultation about your case, contact us at 702-388-4476 or through our contact page.

A Restaurant’s Responsibility to Respond to Allergic Reactions

People with severe food allergies know that they need to take care when they eat at restaurants. Especially if an allergic reaction can be life-threatening, knowing what’s in the food is essential to avoiding injury. But if a restaurant’s patron has a significant allergic reaction, the restaurant has some responsibilities to respond appropriately.

Nevada requires restaurants to account for food allergies

Nevada’s laws and regulations governing restaurant food safety include a number of obligations related to preventing injuries to patrons that have food allergies. Restaurants must foster an awareness of food-related allergies among their employees.  NAC 446.053(12). “Awareness” should at a minimum include a sensitivity to the importance of a patron’s request related to allergens, so that an employee can track down information the patron needs to make a safe choice. Restaurants must also provide appropriate labels for packaged or repackaged food, such as to-go sandwiches or salads. Some restaurants may go further, by including specific warnings about the presence of common allergens in their dishes. Like every establishment that is open to the public, a restaurant has a general obligation to take reasonable care to ensure that its premises are safe and that visitors are not harmed while they are present. In this respect, a patron who suffers an allergic reaction and requires medical attention is no different from a patron who chokes on food or happens to suffer a heart attack while at the restaurant. The reasonable steps a restaurant might take include calling 911. Restaurants are not legally required to stock specific antidotes to allergic reactions, like single-use injectable medication.

A restaurant’s negligent response to an allergic reaction may create liability

When a patron suffers an allergic reaction there may not be much time for medical intervention. A restaurant can be liable for negligence if its staff fails to take reasonable steps to respond to the emergency, or if it makes the problem worse by doing things that hurt the patron further. Negligence might apply in cases such as these:
  • The staff does nothing to assist.
  • If the patron indicates that he or she is carrying an injectable medication to relieve the reaction, restaurant staff may have an obligation to assist with the injection.
  • If the patron notifies staff about the allergy but the restaurant serves food with the allergen anyway.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases. Our attorneys are available for free consultations to discuss your case. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Pesticides, Herbicides, and Long-Term Health Problems

Pesticides, Herbicides, and Long-Term Health Problems
In sufficient concentrations, pesticides and herbicides used in many forms of agriculture are known to cause a range of health problems, from irritated skin to hormonal imbalances, nerve problems, and cancer. Studies have found a connection between the use of the herbicide Roundup and celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance. People who are harmed by agricultural chemicals may have legal recourse to recover compensation, but there are a range of challenges that a plaintiff must overcome.

Establishing causation can be difficult in pesticides cases

In a personal injury case the plaintiff must show, among other things, that the defendant’s negligent actions or inactions caused the plaintiff’s injury. In cases involving injuries caused by chemicals, a central question can be whether the defendant’s chemical really caused the injury, or if other intervening sources might be to blame. Putting aside the exotic situation where someone accidentally eats a huge amount of a toxic substance, the most common scenario involves health problems that are slow to develop and difficult to trace. Highly technical evidence is usually required to establish the causal link between the defendant’s chemical and the plaintiff’s injury. Scientific studies can be useful evidence. Typically, one or more expert witnesses are asked to provide written or oral testimony. The witness, who must be properly qualified (for example, an oncologist to speak about causes of cancer), may give a professional opinion about the chemical at issue has been shown to cause the plaintiff’s injury. Scientific evidence doesn’t always provide clear answers. Two studies of similar issues may reach different conclusions. Experts can disagree about the effectiveness of a study’s methods or its applicability to the plaintiff’s particular case. Cases involving relatively new health problems, like celiac disease, may suffer from inadequate studies. And chemical manufacturers often conduct tests of their own, with “experts” standing by to refute any claims about a chemical’s toxicity.

When? Where?

Another problem for plaintiffs is showing precisely when and where they came in contact with the defendant’s chemical. If the plaintiff cannot prove that he or she was exposed to the chemical at issue, a successful case will be hard to make. Proving exposure can be especially challenging if it happened a long time ago. On the other hand, if many people are suffering from the same problems and exposure to the same chemical can be established between them, a group of plaintiffs may be able to draw an inference that would not otherwise be available to an individual. Questions of exposure can be different for someone who works closely with agricultural chemicals. Farm laborers, who are excluded from Nevada’s workers’ compensation system, can be exposed to extremely high levels of toxicity if not adequately protected. Someone who has been exposed to very high levels of toxic chemicals and has developed a serious illness as a result should consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented injured clients to help them get the compensation they deserve. If you are suffering from an illness that may have been caused by exposure to agricultural chemicals, reach out to us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. Call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Restaurant Responsibilities for Food Allergies

People who suffer from food allergies face constant challenges when they go out to eat. Being exposed to an allergen can have serious or even fatal health consequences. For restaurants, one challenge of food allergies is their sheer variety. When someone is exposed to an allergen in restaurant food and suffers serious injury as a result, the question may become whether the restaurant bears legal responsibility.

Liability requires negligence

Responsibility for personal injury is usually a question of negligence. A negligence claim against a restaurant must show that the restaurant owed the patron a duty of reasonable care, breached that duty, and as a result of the breach the patron was injured. In any negligence case, the duty of reasonable care needs to be based in law, created either by statute or by the courts. Nevada has a lengthy set of rules restaurants must follow for general sanitation and food preparation, chiefly to avoid the spread of food-borne illnesses. Nevada law also requires restaurants to train their employees in food safety, including general training in food allergies. NAC 446.053. Restaurants also must label prepackaged or repackaged food with lists of ingredients, including any source of major food allergies. For labeling purposes, “major food allergens” include milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts, wheat, and soybeans. NAC 446.187. But in general, Nevada does not require restaurants to actively protect their customers from allergens. That makes sense. A restaurant can’t predict the allergies of every person who walked through the door. Instead, people who have food allergies must take steps to protect themselves, by asking questions and knowing the things they must avoid.

Where negligence might apply

A restaurant might bear liability for a customer’s allergy-related injuries if certain facts are present. Here are a few examples:
  • Failure to comply with training or labeling laws. If a restaurant doesn’t properly train its staff in the basics of food allergies, it may be committing negligence per se (that is, its negligence might be presumed from the fact that it was not complying with a regulatory requirement). But the failure to comply with regulations would need to be causally connected to the patron’s injury.
  • Providing bad information. A restaurant could be liable if it doesn’t provide accurate information once asked. For example, if a patron asks if a dish contains peanuts and the staff incorrectly responds that it does not, the restaurant may be liable if the patron suffers serious injury. Ultimately, this is why Nevada requires its restaurants to train its personnel: to avoid harmful mistakes.
  • Failure to respond to an emergency. When a restaurant patron suffers a medical emergency, the restaurant becomes responsible for taking reasonable steps to help. That might include promptly calling 911 and taking other steps that an ordinary person might take. This doesn’t mean that the restaurant needs to take every possible step. For example, a restaurant that doesn’t keep an EpiPen auto-injector on hand to respond to serious allergic reactions isn’t necessarily behaving unreasonably.

We are happy to answer your questions

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area seek compensation for their injuries. If you have questions about your legal options following a serious allergic reaction to food and would like to speak to a lawyer, call us today for a free consultation at 702-388-4476, or reach us through our contact page.