Food and Beverage Industry

Food scientists design Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs to protect manufacturing processes from hazards such as pathogens, allergens and foreign matter. At Sedgwick, we think of ourselves as HACCP protection for your company’s legal affairs, offering legal hazard analysis and a wide range of services to control attacks on your company’s bottom line.

Food and beverage companies today find themselves under unprecedented scrutiny. While the risks of foodborne illness have always existed, high-profile disease outbreaks, food recalls and media frenzies have placed the food industry under a litigation spotlight. On the class action front, plaintiffs’ lawyers scrutinize advertising claims, regulatory actions and lawsuits between competitors to identify situations where they can claim that consumers were misled into buying products that do not deliver promised features. To minimize the risk of litigation, food and beverage companies must consider a host of potential challenges to their business activities, including advertising claims, product liability risks, labeling issues and statutes that award potentially crippling “gotcha remedies” to uninjured consumers.

Result-Oriented Case Management

Our attorneys work in your world, partnering with in-house counsel and management, and communicating with you in the language of your business. Sedgwick’s client service approach gives us an advantage over small firms that lack our breadth, and larger firms that have lost touch with the economic realities confronting businesses. We work across geographic regions to provide real world solutions, from counseling to trial and just about everything in between.

While it took the recession to teach some law firms that clients appreciate cost-effective representation, Sedgwick has made this one of our core values for more than 80 years. We become invested in your long-term goals by working with you to map a defense strategy that mirrors the level of risk that litigation presents to your company. We are as comfortable with proactive settlement negotiation as we are with scorched-earth trial and appeal. Our goal is always to find an approach that makes sense for your situation.

Regulatory Compliance and Hazard Analysis

We assist your business in complying with applicable federal and state regulatory requirements and interacting effectively with the agencies that develop and implement them, including the FDA and the USDA. Our attorneys provide counsel on marketing, labeling and digital media issues to help you respond effectively to consumer complaints. Our goal is to help our food and beverage clients navigate the regulatory and safety issues arising from greater scrutiny by federal, state, and local regulatory agencies, as well as the private sector. We satisfy this goal by partnering with our clients to provide appropriate legal oversight of their activities, and interacting with the agencies that govern those activities to ensure compliance with the law. 

When food labeling, contamination and recall issues arise, we work closely with clients’ business teams to craft effective strategies for crisis management, interaction with governmental authorities and mitigation of potential risks. We also provide expert assessment of potential product liability risk and develop strategies for mitigation.

Apart from liability risks, litigation can present serious business risks. It is expensive and can permanently damage to your brand. The commercial fallout from unsubstantiated accusations about your product can prove the adage that one may “win the battle but lose the war.”

Foodborne Illness

We defend cases involving common and rare organisms, with an emphasis on catastrophic injuries. Our objective is to combine the law and the science to craft a compelling defense. We review any investigation conducted by health authorities and critically evaluate whether the illness fits the alleged exposure, considering alternative exposure pathways, the likelihood of extrinsic or intrinsic contamination and the plausibility of claimed incubation times. We scrutinize any molecular evidence claimed to link a plaintiff to your product. We work with your food safety and production personnel to understand your manufacturing plant, your production environment and your product sampling and testing programs.

We present your company’s story to juries against a backdrop of regulatory and international standards and manufacturing best practices. We field trial teams that can go toe-to-toe with the best plaintiff trial lawyers in the country. We present your defense using the best and latest courtroom technology. And, when resolution of claims through settlement presents the best strategy, we work hard to get you the best outcome.

Class Action Litigation

Plaintiff class action lawyers love food, and not just because it tastes good. Food companies advertise their products extensively and their products generate substantial sales. Food products are unlikely to cause the type of physical injuries that could prevent the formation of a class. Plaintiff class action lawyers see in food the key ingredients for successful class action lawsuits. Our goal is to keep them out of your kitchen.

Our recipe for a successful class action defense is to approach every case with the knowledge that human behavior is complex, and that consumers act in different ways based on individual circumstances. Class actions are a procedural device that allows a few plaintiffs to prove the claims of absent class members through common proof. The class device does not give legal rights to those who could not prove their own individual claims, nor should it abridge defendants’ rights to defend themselves. We educate the court about why common proof will not establish a right of recovery for all class members and why allowing class claims to proceed will harm absent class members. Through the testimony of class representatives, company employees and retained experts, we demonstrate that one size does not fit all and that the court cannot grant class certification.