A Texas district court held that 124 claims for food poisoning from salmonella bacteria suffered by patrons at a restaurant was one ‘occurrence’ within the terms of the restaurant’s insurance policy. An occurrence was defined as ‘an accident including continuous or repeated exposure to the same general harmful conditions’.

An occurrence was ‘an accident’ and not ‘a series of accidents’ and focus had to be placed on the cause of the injuries rather than the number of injurious effects. There was a single, continuous event that both caused the injuries in the underlying suits, and gave rise to the restaurant’s liability. Therefore all the food poisonings were an ‘occurrence’. The harmful condition was the food that had been contaminated with the bacteria.

The defendant suggested that there were multiple occurrences because the parties did not know which products were contaminated and when. The court held that the lack of information regarding the source of the contamination did not create multiple occurrences under the policy. Liability did not arise from the sale of food made by other persons or entities, but instead arose from the restaurant’s own preparation of a contaminated product which was sold to the claimants. Multiple claims arising from the same defect in the same product are caused by a single occurrence.

The case is Travelers Casualty Insurance Company of America v Mediterranean Grill & Kabob Inc case no. 5:20-cv-00040 US District Court for the Western District of Texas.