When Eating Fish Could Be a Deadly Product Liability Issue May 15, 2010.

While eating fish is supposed to be good for a person, there are times when it may be deadly.

In this day and age of very unusual incidents involving product liability, we can now seemingly add food to this long list. If it weren’t for product recalls, things would seem rather quiet. Think tainted cat food, dog food, baby’s milk, defective cars, cribs, baby slings, and a whole host of other products we thought were safe and weren’t.

The latest recall deals with elevated histamine levels in Yellowfin tuna. What makes this recall slightly more prominent is that not only is the company issuing a recall for their tuna steaks, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also on the bandwagon. It’s not that often the FDA gets mixed into a food recall or drug recall for that matter.

The frozen tuna steaks in question have higher levels of histamines which would manifest symptoms called scombroid poisoning, anywhere from within a few minutes up to an hour later. The steaks have a ‘best used by’ date of December 5th, 2010, and are sold in "12 ounce bags with Lot Code: 4853309157A with the following UPC code: 0-99482-42078-9 Whole Catch Yellowfin Tuna Steaks (Frozen) 12 oz."

"This particular allergic reaction may cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, itching skin and hives, a rash, facial swelling, and a tingling or burning sensation in the mouth. This is quite similar to anaphylactic shock and quick medical intervention is crucial. Unfortunately, no two people react the same way to ingesting higher levels of histamines," indicated Christopher Mellino, a medical malpractice lawyer, of the Mellino Law Firm LLC, in Cleveland, Ohio.

In this particular case, the company and the FDA took action quickly and there have seemingly only been two reported reactions. Nonetheless, if a person was a victim of ingesting this lot of tuna steak, they would be well advised to speak to an attorney with experience in handling products liability cases.

In Ohio, a product is considered to be defective if it does not offer the level of safety that the public is entitled to expect. This does vary in each case, with the final arbiter being the court. For all intents and purposes, the court considers a variety of things to determine if a product is defective. "They consider how the product is marketed and what its purpose is; how the product is packaged; any trademark considerations; any warnings or instructions related to the product; what may reasonably be expected to be done with the item; and when (the timing) the product was supplied," Mellino outlined.

Put another way, product liability provisions apply to companies that make a product, import a product or sell their ‘own brand’ items made for them under license. There have even been cases where the store that sold the item (the retailer) was deemed to be the manufacturer of the product, making them liable.

"The bottom line is that if you are not sure if you have a product liability case on your hands, speak to an experienced lawyer who will explain what kinds of loss may be compensated and how to go about filing a personal injury lawsuit," added Mellino. Knowledge is power and knowing what product liability is goes a long way toward understanding the legal process to obtain justice. "There is one other thing people should know," he said, "and that is in ‘some’ cases the manufacturer may not be liable for the defective product."

Those circumstances involve the defect in a product not genuinely being their fault; that the product turned out to be a part of a whole completed product and the defect is only applicable to the design of the completed product (making the company who finished the goods liable); when the defect could not have been known at the time the goods hit the market because there was not enough technical knowledge; or the product maker complying with a mandatory standard that caused the defect.