A federal court in Puerto Rico has certified a question to the territory’s supreme court to determine whether a company can be held liable for injuries stemming from the consumption of a species of shrimp that can contain a naturally occurring toxin. Cabán v. JR Seafood Inc., No. 14-1507 (D.P.R., order entered September 11, 2015).
The plaintiff became quadriplegic after eating shrimp tainted with saxitoxin at a restaurant supplied by JR Seafood. He sued JR Seafood for strict liability, arguing that the product was defective. The district court abstained from ruling, holding, “After careful review of the parties’ allegations and applicable law, the court finds that this case relies solely on an unsettled issue of Puerto Rico law, as to which this court cannot reasonably predict how the Puerto Rico Supreme Court would rule.” It then certified two questions: “Under the principles of product liability, is a supplier/seller strictly liable for the damages caused by human consumption of an extremely poisonous natural toxin found in a shrimp, even if said food product (and its ‘defect’) are not a result of manufacturing or fabrication process?” and “If the previous question is answered in the affirmative, would it make a difference if the ‘defect’ of the food product is readily discoverable scientifically or otherwise?”