Food Safety Regulation and Litigation: Minimizing the Risk of Product Liability Claims

Mastering the Standards for Fault, Causation and Damages in Foodborne Illness Litigation

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Recorded event now available

This CLE webinar will provide product liability counsel with a review of the latest regulatory and case law developments related to food safety. The panel will examine key issues in foodborne illness litigation, explain the definition of the standards for fault, causation and damages, and offer best practices to defend these lawsuits.


The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are over 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. each year. To contain this perceived epidemic, federal regulators have over the last few years implemented a number of measures, including preventive controls, import and export rules, produce safety standards, rules on administrative detention, and rules on product tracking and sanitary transportation under the Food Safety Modernization Act administered by the FDA. These new laws in turn will impact how cases are handled in the litigation.

Lawsuits from foodborne illnesses can be costly and time consuming. Jury verdicts often reach millions of dollars and garner unfavorable media attention. Successfully defending a food safety claim hinges upon mastering the standards unique to these cases.

Foodborne illness liability requires the establishment of fault and causation by the plaintiff. Counsel for both parties must understand the scientific link between the foodborne illness, the alleged harm to a plaintiff and the defendant’s product to litigate food safety lawsuits.

Counsel must also understand how to assess damages. The financial liability of all parties involved, the anticipation of plaintiffs’ future medical costs, and defendants’ insurance coverage all play a key role in determining damages.

Listen as our authoritative panel of product liability attorneys discusses the latest developments in food safety regulation and litigation, and defines the standards for establishing fault and causation and proving damages. The panel will explain best practices to defend foodborne illness lawsuits.


  1. Regulatory and compliance requirements in food safety
    1. Recent developments under the Food Safety Modernization Act
    2. Statutes/regulations
  2. How these rules effect product liability law
    1. Increased record keeping
    2. Public notification
  3. Proposition 65
  4. Class actions
  5. The food safety product liability claim
    1. Brief overview of science of foodborne illness
    2. Delineating fault
    3. Defining a scientific causal link
  6. How to pay for a food safety problem
    1. Types of costs a food liability problem can cause
    2. Role of insurance and other risk-spreading tools
    3. Early steps to take when claims or recalls occur
    4. What your company or client can do now to prepare


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What measures have regulators taken to reign in the increasing number of foodborne illness incidents?
  • What are the standards for liability and negligence, and which defendants are held to each standard in food safety litigation?
  • How does available insurance coverage influence how counsel approaches the legal issues involved?
  • What is the role of expert witnesses in establishing causation and determining damages?


James F. Neale, Partner
McGuireWoods, Charlottesville, Va.

Mr. Neale’s practice focuses on high-exposure cases in courts across the country. He has substantial mass tort and class action litigation experience and currently serves as Co-Chair of the firm's Foodborne Illness Litigation Practice Group. Much of Mr. Neale’s current work focuses on defending clients in food-related litigation, as well as counseling food companies on regulatory compliance and litigation avoidance. He is a member of the faculty of the National Trial Advocacy College at the University of Virginia.

Lee N. Smith, Partner
Coleman & Horowitt, Fresno, Calif.

Mr. Smith has provided representation in the areas of land and natural resource regulation and development, environmental compliance, water law and litigation in the Central Valley for over 27 years. His breadth of experience includes water quality (at both the federal and state levels), air quality and hazardous materials compliance, Proposition 65 and food safety.

W. Hunter Winstead, Partner
Gilbert, Washington, D.C.

Mr. Winstead is an experienced litigator who represents clients in financial and commercial disputes, corporate bankruptcy and insolvency matters. He has represented companies, creditors' committees, post-bankruptcy trusts, individual directors and officers, and other individuals and entities in insurance, banking, and other types of litigation. Mr. Winstead’s expertise in insurance coverage litigation and disputes encompasses commercial general liability, directors’ & officers’ liability, errors & omissions and professional liability policies.


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Customer Reviews

Very good breadth and depth of the subject matter - the speakers had a lot of experience and insight.

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Pedersen & Company

The speakers were very well informed and knowledgeable.

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Morrison & Foerster

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Udall Law Firm

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Product Liability Advisory Board

Larry D. Grayson


Hartline Dacus Barger Dreyer

Michael Hoenig


Herzfeld & Rubin

Melissa A. Murphy-Petros

Of Counsel

Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker

Cary Stewart Sklaren


Herzfeld & Rubin

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